Wednesday, October 14, 2009

"Little Italy"

It was my wife that pointed this out, and if it hadn't been for her I'd have never thought of it. The Italian neighbourhoods that sprout up in cities across the North America are inevitably given the name "Little Italy", just as Chinese neighbourhoods are inevitably "Chinatown". Never a "Little China" or an "Italytown" to be had.

But this is, of course, not the point. The wonder of "Little Italy" is in the amazingly mellifluous sound of its name, particularly if you have a North American accent that softens the letter 't'. If so, what you are saying is approximately "lidda lidda lee", a dance of the tongue on the roof of the mouth far more satisfying than Nabokov's description of the feel of the name "Lolita" on the human mouth.

J. R. R. Tolkein has made famous the phrase 'cellar door'. Beautiful it is, but I think "Little Italy" has it beat, hands-down.

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