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The dictionary is not only an indispensable tool of knowledge, which informs, explains, educates, but also a dream machine that, from word to word, ends up being confused with the power of the imagination (Roland Barthes, What is a scandal. Unpublished writings 1933-1980. Texts about himself, art, writing and societyedited by Filippo D’Angelo, L’orma, Rome 2021).

A great admirer of the vocabulary was Edmondo De Amicis. For him the vocabulary is «a book to be read in full, like a story, or a treatise, or a novel; and to be kept on the bedside table; and to take, in installments, on walks in the countryside ». The vocabulary, De Amicis writes again, is an enchanting, fantastic book that excites the senses and ignites sparks in the head, fifty of its pages arouse a crowd of images that are denser, more varied, more swirling than that of the A thousand and one nights. In the vocabulary, a pleasant, useful and moral book, there are “the dying words, the victorious, the crippled, the transfigured, the invulnerable, the killed, the buried, the fracide, the resurrected”. “If I were Minister of Public Education – De Amicis threatensly sentenced – I would put in the teaching program for the schools of the Kingdom, with the deepest conviction of doing what is useful for Italy, the compulsory reading of all the Vocabulary of the language, with analysis, comments and examination at the end of each year “(Edmondo De Amicis, Reading the dictionaryin Id., Scattered pages, Lombard Publishing House, Milan 1874, pp. 135-147; also, with the title Vocabularyin Mario Scognamiglio, edited by, Vocabulary apology and other bibliophile writings, «Almanac of the bibliophile», year IX, N. 9, Edizioni Rovello, Milan January 1999, pp. 39-52).

Then there are those, like Manganelli, who maintain that a dictionary can be read “like a novel”, and this by virtue of the fact that wandering among the pages of dictionaries, fascinating and seductive dormitories of words, where words hang like vipistrelli and they come off and begin to flutter when someone calls them out loud, it is a pleasant thing, which gives pleasure, a “delightful” occupation, just like reading a (good) novel (Giorgio Manganelli, All the Gotha of ghostsin Id., The subtle noise of prose, edited by Paola Italia, Adelphi, Milan 1994, pp. 173-176).

And Manganelli is responsible for a review, We will wake up at the “gallicino”published in the Corriere della Sera on 12 June 1977, al Illustrated dictionary of the luxurious Italian language by Giampaolo Barosso, with illustrations by Romano Farina and Angelo Sgarzerla, originally printed by Rizzoli in 1977 and re-edited by Elliot in 2022 with an afterword by Antonio Castronuovo.

The words contained in the Dictionariesetto of Mr. Barosso (as the Manga calls it, recognizing our total belonging to the “gift box” genre) are authentic but with reworked or invented definitions, obsolete, abstruse words, coming, as Barosso himself explains in the final “License” to the book, first from the New Universal Dictionar of the Italian Language (1909) by Policarpo Petrocchi and from Vocabulary of the Italian language (1937-38, VI ed.) By Nicola Zingarelli, and from other volumes.

Here is a taste of these words, just to get into the spirit of Dictionariesetto:

BIBLIÒTAFO s. Maniac who keeps his books jealously hidden.

INFALOTICHIRE v. Fantasizing, becoming in a bad mood.

PALPALPIGASTRO s. Difficult to pronounce. Rooster leg and palpalpigastro foota phrase that is said when proposing a difficulty in pronunciation for fun.

SCARDUCCIARSI v. Escape the influence of Carducci.

TAPINOSI s. Rhetorical figure that consists in using humble words.

ZUZZERELLONE s. The last word in the dictionary. It is not said zuzzerellonethe last word is not said.

Greedy for nonsense, with an infallible sense of the superfluous which is the soul of luxury (this is how the Manga, who suspects him “connoisseur of thrushes”, portrays him), Barosso has devised “an elaborate hoax”, a “cunning trick”, which it shares it, in a certain way, with the equally mocking operation carried out by Tommaso Landolfi (one of the authors, together with Italo Svevo, loved by Barosso) in the story The walk (1966), which begins like this:

My wife was at the scappini, the apprentice scaprugginava, the infantryman was preparing the sizing … , made me that day the effect of a malagma or a dropace! Better get out, I thought reversing myself, maybe I will take two steps to the cover.

And it continues on the same register, with phrases constructed «based on nouns and verbs, incomprehensible, like one of those experiments of false signification of an invented lexicon, like the Lewis Carroll of Jabberwocky(Italo Calvino), as if he were a imaginary Italian.

Reviewing Landolfi’s book that contains that story, “a surpass of rotogravure literary criticism”, about some indecipherable, enigmatic terms, he wrote that they were invented words, while they were all true, abstruse of course, abandoned for some time, but all strictly true and traceable in a vocabulary of the Italian language. Just a beautiful trebaziata (from Gaio Trebazio Testa, a Roman jurist and politician satirized by Horace; the term indicates prose and poems embellished with peregrine words that most are led to believe invented).

As all wonderfully true are the lemmas recorded by The book of otherwise lost words (2011) by Sabrina D’Alessandro – archinegghientissimo, risbaldènte, scutrettolantejust to give a few examples – which is worthy to pair with the Dictionariesetto of the Barosso.

As befits canonical dictionaries, the Dictionariesetto reports within some entries of examples of use and citations:

BRASCHINO s. Boy doing small services. Ready? I left the elzevirotto with the porter: can you send a braschino to pick it up? (Gior. Manganelli).

ZIRO ZIRO s. Ziru ziru. Zunzuro. Sound produced by swiping over the rim of a glass. M. thought of the good days when he would still crawl naked on the edge of a glass, he remembered with nostalgia the ziro ziro that he would still produce (S. Beckett).

Other items are dedicated to imaginary machines:

FANTSCOPO s. Machine with which ghosts are seen.

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LAMPOSCOPE s. Optical instrument to see lightning.

LOGÒMETRO s. Tool for measuring words [mi ricorda Da: «La melotecnica esposta al popolo» (1942) di Tommaso Landolfi, dove la «melotecnica» è lo studio dettagliato su peso, consistenza, colore e altre particolarità fisiche delle note emesse da una gola umana].

ONNIÒMETRO s. Instrument measuring everything.

THEOMETRIST s. Meter of God and His work [come non pensare al testo Della superficie di Dio di Alfred Jarry].

Still other voices are puns or puns:

HEPANADIPLOSIS s. Repetition at the end of a sentence or period of the word or words with which they begin. This is an epanadiplosis, this is.

BALANCE s. Used mostly in the plural, balancestechnical term of the equilibrists.

INTENDANCE s. Beloved person. Intendanza of Fidenzaloved one, engaged to be in Fidenza.

LALLÌ av. Down there. Either there or there.

NICHE s. Person full of gnigni.

PRACTICALLY av. Voice that practically means nothing.

The mocked ways, Barosso specifies, mostly belong to political language, and many to that of the left, two examples for all:

POLITICAL ag. It is said of everything, in that everything is political […].

POLLICITATION s. Unilateral promise, declaration without the will to commit oneself […].

At the conclusion of the DictionariesettoBarosso, in line with what was said by the aforementioned De Amicis and Barthes on the value of dictionaries, puts forward a piece of advice, not new but always good: “do not neglect the reading of dictionaries […]: they really get from it, and not for a joke, education and pleasure ».

But who is Giampaolo Barosso?

A multifaceted and bizarre figure in the Italian cultural panorama, Barosso was born in Turin on June 8, 1937; moving to Genoa, he participated as a young man with Gino Paoli and Luigi Tenco in the formation of a small group The Devils of Rock & Roll; paints; collaborates with the magazine “Ana Eccetera” founded by Martino Oberto where he publishes the first story, A similar incident (1960), and other writings, including News about a new international artificial auxiliary language project (1969). In 1964 he moved to Milan where he attended the Center for Cybernetics and Linguistic Activities of the University of Milan, directed by Silvio Ceccato, with whom he has a long association; he translates scientific texts; he writes subjects for «Mickey Mouse» and collaborates with «Corriere dei Piccoli». In 1969 he published General principles of operational linguistics. After a short stay in Rome, in 1975 he retired to a farmhouse in Montecampano, a fraction of the municipality of Amelia in Umbria, where he devoted himself to the countryside (that’s why Manganelli considers him a “connoisseur of thrushes”; the author of Hilarotragoedia one imagines that Barosso attends a “gargotta of Amelia where one can taste palombacci and thrushes”); at the same time it creates its own website in which it publishes stories and stories of everyday life, but also fantastic ones, reflections of a social, cultural, linguistic, literary, philosophical nature, a sort of personal Zibaldonea mosaic of texts that make one think, so Barosso writes, of ai Essays by Montaigne. The chronicles report that in 2008 he won the Papersera Prize with his brother Abraham, an award awarded annually to the Disney author or authors who distinguished themselves during their comics career. He died in Montecampano on February 27, 2014.

In the Dictionariesettothere is a voice that seems written ad hoc to effectively summarize the figure of its author:

FRUZZICATORE s. Person who searches and searches, without finding anything. Fryer of the CNFresearcher of the National Council of Fruzziche.

The article is in Italian


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