Shit! by Rolando Cicatelli, 50×70 cm, oil on canvas

Howdy, folks!

I know I sound a bit cryptic today, but I simply wanted to explain that I have no intention to beat a dead horse. For those who didn’t read my last post, DEDICATO, last time I dedicated A.Word.A.Day. selection to someone (negatively) ‘special’ , today’s one might seem somehow related, but in fact it is not. It looks quite weird, probably the A.W.A.D. team is in the mood for jokes or maybe the choice has been suggested by their subconscious, I don’t know, but please believe me if I say that it’s unintentional … at least at a conscious level!


noun: Absolutely nothing; worthless.
From Yiddish, short for kozebubkes (goat droppings), from bub/bob (bean). Earliest documented use: 1937.
The word is also spelled as bobkes, bubkes, bopkes, bupkes, bupkus, bubkis, bubkes, etc. The English equivalent of the term is beans, as in: He doesn’t know beans about computers.
“Sorry, your stock options are worth bupkis.”
Nancy Davidson; The Secrets of Lost Cats; St. Martin’s Press; 2013.
ITALIAN TRANSLATION:  niente, zero, nullità … no, let’s stick to the original term, the true, undeniable Italian translation is MERDA, or merda secca, merdina, merdaccia and various more or less colourful shit-related expressions
i.e. Hymn of praise to shit
First of all, excuse me folks if I sound insulting, but I feel the need to spend a few words to clarify my point of view on the ‘hot’ subject. First of all, let me praise the usefulness and necessity of the concerned matter. In spite of its vile aspect, the matter is of vital importance in agriculture, so essential that it has even a ‘market value’. My dear, old grandma used to tell me that in hard times, such as during the Second world war, entire families used to live thanks to the sale of animal dejecta (and I fear sometimes of their own faeces). Un lavoro di merda we Italians would say using a humorous wordplay that is lost in translation in English (it’s a fucking work).  But I have to spend a few words on the term itself: you may not even imagine, but the mean word merda has even a literary dignity: our ‘Supreme Poet’ Dante Alighieri even quotes  ‘merda’ in his Divine Comedy. Let’s have a look:
Vidi un col capo sì di merda lordo / che non parea s’era laico o cherco
Inferno, XVIII, 116-117
“I saw someone whose head was covered with shit to such an extent that I couldn’t even distinguish whether he was lay or cleric”
The act of eating shit is often quoted in ancient satire and was considered as a sort of propitiatory rite. Our Patron Saint S. Francesco d’Assisi even referred to shit as a positive value as compared with the violence and greed of the Vatican State under the dominance of Innocenzio III. The relation between shit and fortune is also testified by the custom among both actors  and stagehand to wish themselves good luck by saying ‘MERDA, MERDA, MERDA’ (literally shit, shit, shit) before any theatrical performance, probably due to the fact that in the past centuries successful performances were accompanied by … tons of horse shit produced by carriages used by the many noble families to reach theatres! Last but not least, in the English slang the word ‘shit’ has a positive meaning if preceded by the article ‘the’ (quoting Wikipedia). Not to mention the soothing, even cathartic effect that calling someone ‘‘si ‘na ‘mmerda!‘ (Neapolitan expression meaning ‘you fu****g s.o.b.!’) can have on anyone … obviously provided that the counterpart truly deserves such a colourful epithet!
What can I say more? Every time you say shit, merda, merde or something similar, always remember that it deserves the highest respect. The shit, I mean.
Good luck and … shit, shit, shit, folks!
Yours sincerely,
Your passionate (Italian) Translator
Illustration courtesy of Rolando Cicatelli

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