Why do children call their father babbo in Tuscany?Did you know that...
Why do children call their father babbo in Tuscany?
In Tuscany, children call their father babbo - not just during childhood, but for their entire life. You might have already heard this word in one of Pieraccioni’s films or in monologues by Benigni and Panariello. Just to give you another example, Carlo Conti, another Tuscan born and bred, chose as the title for the book in which he speaks of his experience as a father: 'We say babbo'! Who knows, perhaps you first heard of this word as a child, reading the Italian book 'The Adventures of Pinocchio'? Do you remember when the puppet meets Geppetto in the belly of the whale and calls him: 'babbo... my dear babbo'! But there is more to it! Dante Alighieri also uses this word in his Divine Comedy. At the beginning of the XXXII canto, referring to the difficulty of finding the right words to describe the bottom of the universe, he wrote: ‘For to describe the bottom of the universe / is not an enterprise wherewith to jest, / nor for a tongue that says ‘mamma’ and ‘babbo’.
Having said this, have you ever wondered why in Tuscany we say babbo instead of papà? The explanation is rather simple. Both babbo and papà are words that reproduce the simple language used by children when they start talking. They usually utter stuttering sounds composed of a consonant and a vowel: like ba-ba, pa-pa, ma-ma and so on. With this in mind, there are no great differences in the onomatopoeic origin of the two terms. The main difference lies in the fact that babbo, unlike papà, is an Italian local term. At the end of the day, we all know that Florence is the cradle of our language! We don’t want to upset the other Italian regions, but Manzoni came to Florence when he wanted to polish his Italian! The other term, papà, has a French origin: a term borrowed from the French language that by proximity spread across northern Italy in particular.
So how come babbo was replaced by papà in almost all of Italy? Especially in the nineteenth century, papà was used by the higher social classes, while babbo was limited to use within the family and by the less wealthy families. In the end its use survived only in Tuscany and in some other areas of Sardinia, Emilia Romagna, Marche and Umbria and... to describe one of the most important characters of our culture. Have you ever realised that Father Christmas in Italy is called 'Babbo Natale' and not 'Papà Natale'! It’s nice to discover amusing anecdotes on Tuscany, don’t you agree? So why not take advantage of one of our activities in Florence to discover some quirky facts about this wonderful city? Check out our 'Unusual Florence' section and you will find many perfect experiences to whet your curiosity.
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