This is one of my favorite Italian words, if only for the fact that it is one of the few words I know to express astonishment. The word is pronounced “stoop-ay-fah-CHEN-tay” and you can no doubt see that it is similar to the English word “stupefying,” so you already know how to translate it.
Lately, “stupefacente” has been swimming around in my head. I find myself thinking it during rehearsals as I listen to the singers rehearse Verdi’s AIDA at Opera Birmingham (www.operabirmingham.org). There are moments when the Italian music and lyrics are so luscious, even when played on a clavinova and sung sotto voce (quietly), that I find myself caught up in the “amazing” work being rehearsed. I also think “stupefacente” when I consider that in two weeks we will be adding dogs, ponies, a camel and an elephant into the mix—beyond the 80 performers!
The February House Beautiful article (http://www.housebeautiful.com/decorating/home-makeovers/remodeling-old-southern-home) about our home and the loads of blog chat across the blogosphere about our kitchen has me thinking “STUPEFACENTE,” too. Thanks to everyone for discovering and checking out this blog in response to the magazine article. Stephen Drucker, from House Beautiful, even noticed all the response our article was getting.
I first learned today’s “Word of the Day” while in Viterbo, during my first cooking lesson with Nonna. She was demonstrating how to de-bone a chicken without cutting the chicken into pieces. She was de-boning it whole and stuffing it with a mixture of ground veal and pork.
I asked Alessandra, “Come si dice “amazing” in italiano?” as I watched Nonna cleanly remove a thighbone via the center cavity of the chicken.
“Stupefacente, indeed.” (*)
Each syllable seemed to wrap itself around my awe of Nonna’s knife work. “Amazing” sounded good, but “stoop-ay-fah-CHEN-tay” really seemed to imply an active astonishment. Maybe it was the stress on the syllable “CHEN.”
Try it yourself.
Say “amazing” giving it all the wonderment you can—“a-MAZ-ing.”
Now say “stoop-ay-fah-CHEN-tay”— really hitting the “CHEN.”
Try it again: give it an Italian flair by holding the thumb and forefinger of your right hand together, shaking your wrist, as you stress that syllable: “stoop-ay-fah-CHEN (shake, shake, shake)-tay!”
Va bene, no?
There is your Word of the Day and your Italian lesson all rolled into one.
I think my next posting is going to be about Venice, unless the elephant gives me problems. If so, the next La Parola del Giorno might just be my first Word of the Day~ DISASTRO! (http://www.mark-leslie.net/la-parola-di-giorno-the-word-of-the-day)
Ciao e a presto~
(* The whole story of Nonna teaching me how to de-bone a chicken is in one of the chapters of my manuscript “BEYOND THE PASTA: 28 Days of Recipes, Language, and Life with an Italian Family.” I still have letters out to literary agents and hope to post some good news soon about the manuscript moving closer to becoming published.)
(**THE PHOTO: Villa Pisani just north of Padova (Padua, for us English-speaking people). This place is truly “STUPEFACENTE!!!!! Check it out at: http://www.villapisani.beniculturali.it/en/index.php . We spent four hours there and were awe-struck the entire time.)