Padre, Babbo, Papà, Nonno
Father, Daddy, Grandpa
A father (padre) is a Babbo (Daddy} in Tuscany, Sardinia, and several southern regions) or Papà (pronounced pa-PAH) in other parts of Italy. The most famous Daddy of all is Babbo Natale (Father Christmas). Il Papa (PAH-pa) is the pope or Santo Padre (the Holy Father), while God remains the Padre Eterno (eternal father).
Both fathers and grandfathers (nonni) have a long tradition of trying to fare da babbo a qualcuno (help or guide someone). In the fifteenth century the esteemed Cosimo the Elder, the Medici patriarch immortalized as “pater patria” (father of the country) was meeting with foreign ambassadors at his palatial home. One of his grandsons came to him with some reeds and a small knife and asked him to make him a whistle. He broke off the conversation, fashioned a whistle and told the boy to run off and play. The ambassadors were indignant.
“O my brothers, are you not also fathers?” he laughed, “You marveled that I made him the whistle: it is well that he did not ask me to play it, for that I also would have done.” Our daughter Julia's grandfather (above) would have said the same.
Fatherhood also implies authority. The master of the house, the owner of a business. or the big boss is the padrone. One of the pet phrases my husband has memorized to unfurl at the appropriate moment with Italian friends is, “Il padrone sono io, ma chi comanda è mia moglie.” (“I am in charge, but the person who gives the orders is my wife.”)
A padrone di casa is a landlord; a padrona di casa, a landlady. Anyone can acquire padronanza (mastery) and be padrone di sé (in control of one’s self). After many years, I am still striving to avere padronanza della lingua italiana (have a good command of Italian).
As I've wandered through Sicily in recent days, the music playing everywhere--along with tee-shirts and aprons in countless shops -- came from the famous film Il Padrino (The Godfather). Click below to listen.
Words and Expressions
Padre padrone -- tyrannical, domineering father
Tale padre, tale figlio -- Like father, like son
Padrone! Padronissimo! -- (literally, “Master! Very much the master!”) Suit yourself! You’ll be sorry!
L’occhio del padrone ingrassa il cavallo -- The eye of the master fattens the horse. (Any business prospers when the owner pays attention).
Un figlio di papà –- a spoiled boy
Dianne Hales is author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.\