Saturday 26 March 2011

Mangiare una pinza?

Last Wednesday evening I was invited to dinner at a pizzeria in Rome. The restaurant was very nice and the food excellent.

One special characteristic of this pizzeria was a kind of oval pizza, crisp on the surface but soft inside, which was served there and which the waiters called pinsa ˈpinsa. This word featured on all the menus provided to me and my friends but not on the sign hanging outside on the restaurant door, where it appeared written as pinza ˈpintsa. As soon as I saw it I thought this must be a mistake: pinza in Italian means pliers or forceps and has nothing to do with food. Maybe – I observed – this is due to the fact that in the Roman accent, as is the case in some other accents in Italy, the sonorants r,l,n, when followed by s, become affricated. Thus, Roman people don’t usually pronounce pinsa as ˈpinsa but ˈpintsa. Hence the spelling mistake.

It was only when I left that I realized that the word pinza was in fact the name the owners of the restaurant attributed to their type of pizza. It was not an error but a portmanteau word, that is a term blending the sounds and combining the meanings of two others. In this case the Italian words pinsa + pizza were combined so as to form the coinage pinza. How interesting!