My Italian was slipping away. A whole year without being able to spend time there, immersing myself in the language. So I signed up for online classes with the school I always attend when I’m in Rome. The teacher mentioned the word ‘barista’ and was amazed to hear from us that the word is in general use in lots of other countries. In Italian, it simply means the person who works behind the bar. I explained that in the Netherlands, it’s more specific and all about good coffee. All this led to the teacher asking us to think of more Italian words used in other languages, leaving out the most obvious ones such as everything culinary and musical terminology. ‘Prima donna’ was mentioned. In Italian, ‘first lady’ but really, any gender can be a spoilt brat. I didn’t talk about the Mocro Maffia in Amsterdam. Instead, I mentioned ‘pico bello’ which in Dutch means ‘perfect’. In English, you might say ‘top notch’. Possible origins are from hurdling, when the bar is raised in notches or the mountain pass nearest to the summit which is also the notch (US).
‘Pico bello’ made everyone laugh, since it’s not actually Italian. It’s a pseudo translation of ‘piekfijn’, a Dutch expression meaning ‘perfect’. It even comes with its own hand gesture to accentuate the Italian feel!