Thursday 8 July 2010

Magic Italy?

Since yesterday morning, a video has been doing the rounds both on YouTube and in the national news bulletins. You can watch it here. In it, Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi enhances the beauty of Italy by referring to it as "magica Italia". The video is very nice and the idea of trying to encourage Italians as well as foreigners to take their holidays in our country is laudable.
There's just one thing that bugs me: it's the English translation of the expression "magica Italia" which comes at the end of the video clip. Whoever translated "magica Italia" as "magic Italy" doesn't know that in English the adjective "magico" can be translated in two different ways: magic and magical. The former is the more common and is used in a number of fixed expressions like a magic wand, the magic word, magic tricks, magic spells, expressions that is which are generally related to magic or supernatural powers. The latter, on the other hand, is used in place of magic especially in metaphorical senses like 'wonderful', 'exciting', 'romantic', 'enjoyable', as in a magical country, or magical landscapes.
If you think I'm talking nonsense, you can either read page 230 of Swan's (2005) Practical English Usage, published by Oxford University Press, or check the use of magic and magical in the British National Corpus or in the Corpus of Contemporary American English. That's what I did myself, too, and the answer is that I could only find examples of magical + country and none of magic + country. Which means that the phrase "magic Italy" in the video is WRONG and needs correcting to "magicAL Italy".

PS: Here's a video by the BBC. Notice how Duncan Kennedy, after referring to Berlusconi's "magica Italia" with the expression "Magic Italy", he calls it, immediately switches to Italy's magicAL sights towards the beginning of his report.

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