Accidents of DALL in Italians!

by J.D. Ian Barton & Dr. Salvatore Ivan Italiano;
© (2017)

It is always sad when one has to draw attention to the depletion and deterioration of one’s own native language – in this instance Italian. What am I talking about? Let us get started with a telling example from one scene of the television series ‘Outlander’ whose events unfold in Scotland during the 1700s […]


Jamie speaks to Jenny’s son who, in a previous episode, was spreading slime and droppings on many piles of straw.

Reported Dialogue

JAMIE – Young Ian’s made enough DALL for a month’s supply of fuel. The lad’s paying for his crimes. JENNY – Our father woulda had ye over the gate. JAMIE – Aye, but a thrashing’s not the only way to teach a lesson.

Point of contention (e qui casca l’asino!): how to translate DALL into proper Italian.

What we know thanks to the Scottish National Dictionary (1700–): DALL, n.2 “A large cake, made of sawdust mixed with the dung of cows, etc. used by poor people for fuel” (Ags. 1825 Jam.2). Cf. Doll, n.1.

Aberrant translations offered by some native Italian speakers:
Aberrant translation 1: letame palabile
Aberrant translation 2: Biomassa (unbelievable!)
Aberrant translation 3: torte di letame
Aberrant translation 4: formelle di letame
Aberrant translation 5: letame da ardere

From the example above it is clear that there is a need for these fellows to improve and strengthen their list of Italian reading (before attempting any further ordeal in the mires of translation). The problems introduced by these fellows are of many varieties, and precisely:

1. They have not considered and localised properly the cultural context of the reported dialogue. 2. They have an extremely poor awareness of the cultural differences at play – in this instance between the Saxon/Scottish source language and the Italian target language. 3. They are totally devoid of a proper knowledge of the Italian language.

Solution for DALL

JAMIE – Young Ian’s made enough DALL for a month’s supply of fuel. The lad’s paying for his crimes. JAMIE – [transcreation: Dr. Salvatore Ivan Italiano] Il giovanotto ha fatto abbastanza per tenerci al caldo un intero mese. Ben gli sta!

We will discuss further the rest and the why in my upcoming Video Lessons

Dr. Salvatore Ivan Italiano
Dr. Salvatore Ivan Italiano

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