On behalf of Dad

Sometimes I perform my filial duty as the official speaker for my dad Antonio.

He is an engineer by background and career, but has always cultivated a keen amateur interest as a linguist. At 89, he is nearly blind but can still read the morning paper, and yesterday he called me, asking me to write a letter to “my friend” Emmanuel Macron, President of France. (He has obviously a rather distorted view of the level of my international connections but who am I to correct that minor, flattering misperception?)

So this letter will be duly addressed to @emmanuelmacron (mr. Macron’s Twitter account) and who knows, maybe his Social Media Manager will deem it worthy of his attention.

Dear mr. Macron,

in your recent visit to Australia, you have been criticized by both the Anglo-Saxon mainstream and social Media for qualifying mr. Turnbull’s wife as “delicious”.

I am writing this letter to show you my support, as – indeed – you are right and they all are dead wrong.

The word “delicious” comes directly from late Latin deliciosus “delicious, delicate,” from Latin delicia  “a delight, allurement, charm,” from delicere “to allure, entice,” from de- “away” + lacere “lure, deceive” (related to laqueus “noose, snare”) (etymology link)

The meaning therefore is more connected to attraction (and therefore love) rather than taste, and in fact Catullus famously uses it in his Second Poem:

Passer, delicia meae puellae […]

Obviously, the sparrow in question is the object of Lesbia’s pet love and certainly not her culinary lust.

The word “delicious” (Fr. délicieux, It. delizioso, Sp. delicioso) indicates therefore something or someone inspiring such charm as to allure someone.

Over time, this meaning was extended becoming indicative of ANY sort of pleasure, including the one related to food, but the original meaning is not forgotten, at least by those who care for the origin of words.

Your use in reference to a lady such as ms. Turnbull was therefore entirely appropriate and she should be flattered by your compliment.

Anglo-Saxon media and Social Media users, on the other hand, deserve an “F” in Latin.


Gianni Catalfamo (gianni@catalfamo.com) on behalf of my father,

Antonio Catalfamo

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account.Log Out / Change )

You are commenting using your Google account.Log Out / Change )

You are commenting using your Twitter account.Log Out / Change )

You are commenting using your Facebook account.Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s