08 December 2007

Italian lesson: lo slip

Venice has several Chinese-owned boutiques, many of which have unusual, well-made clothing at bargain prices. Early last month I dropped into one such shop because they were having a close-out sale on some linen skirts I had admired back in September.

A very young Chinese man was at the helm that day, and he worked hard to sell me his merchandise, suggesting colors and finding styles and sizes for me. But when I tried on a skirt, I saw it was too thin to be worn without a slip, a garment I am not much inclined to put on in warm weather. He insisted the skirt was perfect for me, using many flattering words and gestures to convince me.

In my best Italian, I tried to explain, “Questa gonna e troppo trasparente. Non vorrei portare lo slip durante l’estate. Non mi piace lo slip quando fa caldo." (My Venetian readers are already laughing… )

I thought I was saying, “This skirt is too transparent, and I would not want to wear a slip in the summer. I don’t like a slip when it’s hot.” But his face went chalk white and he said nothing more to me. Indeed, he quite ignored me after that.

This week, while in a lingerie shop, I learned why. The Italian word for “slip” is sottovesta.

The translation of lo slip? “Panties.”