Inspired by a post made by helenawaynehuntress, I decided to riff off a post she made about the use of American school buses used in Italian comics, and not only expand on that inaccuracy, but point out other infractions I noticed in Levitz’s run.
We start first with the buses.
This is what Italian school buses look like:
That’s two different versions of them, the long and short ones.
I did find a company that uses American school buses, but after browsing the site, and seeing women wearing too tight clothing and skirts that nearly show what’s between their legs, I can conclude that most Italian parents won’t be using the company to take their children to school. (Unless of course, they don’t mind their impressionable young ones being in the company of what appears to be an escort or party service, maybe even both).
I don’t know who’s to blame for the faux pas of using American school buses in the Helena Wayne mini, but a quick search in Google using the right terms would have yielded these results, and would have led to the buses being drawn in a way that reflects the locale the mini was supposedly taking place in, instead of just substituting it with things that are familiar to Americans because it’s the easier thing to do.
Other things of note that irk me:
The use of the word, signora.
You even pointed out the misuse of the word “arresto” in issue #5! 🙂
I remember when I initially read that line I was a bit confused over whether or not he was saying “arresto” to mean “stop” or if he was telling Helena he was going to arrest her. It was one of those things that needed a bit more context in my opinion, and the fact that “arresto” is a noun made it even more awkward seeing it used as a verb.
On the note of Italy having an image of “corrupt politicians,” that was also a major stereotype that was very much at the core of the mini. Beginning with the fact that the mini’s main antagonist—Moretti—was pals with a corrupt middle eastern dictator (yet another negative racial stereotype), who also had connections with the Italian police, and was even connected to an Italian ambassador. One of the lines that bothered me from issue #3 was Helena outright stating “What in the name of Saint Caedwalia? They’re protecting Naples’ biggest mobster? This country is totally corrupt!” In addition to it coming from a place of ethnocentrism, I also thought it was unusual for Helena (whom I thought was Bertinelli at the time) to say that about her own family’s country.
All that being said, this is a great article! Thanks for taking the time to write this and point out the language inaccuracies as well as other elements that completely misrepresented the country of Italy as well as its people. 🙂
I honestly have only ever seen school buses (grey, for the record) in Rome in an American private school. Oh, and we have a very famous song about the whole “signora” thing. I’m an unmarried young woman, so if you call me “signora”, it means you’re deliberately offending me (as if you were telling me that I’m old, basically). Thanks for writing such a good article, it made me remember why I despise that mini so much, but it was definitely worth it.
Besides, why would you ever need to use Random Italian Words if you’re already using the < > symbols to indicate dialogues in foreign languages? In that case English is equivalent to Italian, you don’t need to add anything else. I don’t understand.
Well, about the use of signora: it’s quite the opposite. The word “signorina” is perceived as offensive because it discriminates you for your marital status, not because of your age. It’s same debate which brought Germans to dismiss the word Fräulein as offensive. Signora is only respectful. I don’t know you, I don’t know if you’re married, over 20 or over 30, and the best thing I can do is to keep my distance while respecting you. Unless, of course, you are a little girl, so “signorina” can be used affectionately.
I guess this may be another of those regional differences? Because I’ve only ever seen signorina used as a respectful term for young women who are not married, like the dictionary suggests. I’ve even seen old women (beyond their 50s) who are addressed as “signorina” out of respect because they’re not married. I have been called “signora” only by unknown people on the phone who assumed I was older from my voice, so in my own experience the whole “signora means you’re something-years-old” still stands, along with the whole married/not married distinction (which I don’t find offensive or discriminating as “You’re 20 but let me address you as a 40yo because you look old to me”). That’s why I find it inappropriate for Helena in that context, more so if we consider that with the whole < > thing it shouldn’t have been there at all, be it signora or signorina.
If only, signorina becomes a sexist term when it’s used to mean that something is girlish/effeminate and thus weak, but that’s another story. Anyway, if you have any links that have more info on the usage you described, I’d be glad to read and share them! I can say for sure that the most frequent meaning people stick to nowadays is still the dictionary one, at least here.
Off topic: check the links in this reply (or the song I mentioned above) if anyone of you has trouble understanding how the “gn” sound works in Italian. They have IPA pronunciation and you’ll notice it’s not like, say, “recognize” at all. That’s how the “gn” sound works in general for us, so I hope there’s at least one thing to learn for sure from this conversation.
Just a quick link, I’ll research more later http://www.treccani.it/magazine/lingua_italiana/domande_e_risposte/lessico/lessico_219.html Anyway, it’s not a matter of regional usage (although in Southern Italy signorina si much more common than in the North), but maybe more of a generational issue. I remember the debate in the Eighties about this matter, which resulted in the dismission of the term signorina in official letters, for example. So to me (I’m 47) signorina sounds really old, condescending and a bit discriminatory, as for me it divides women in married and unmarried. As I said before, the same happened in Germany, around the same time. Thanks for the reply 🙂