Sunday, October 2, 2011

The Italian George Hamilton

The post-June Gloom months have passed with only the vaguest glimmers of summer. Though I’d like to say that October will offer Los Angeles’s last chance at the heat we’re supposedly famous for, it’s already rained once and further precipitation is expected this week. I think the sun may have just have skipped Southern California this year. As such, a portion of my fellow Angelenos will have to tan their skin using less natural means. And that sad fact was my motivation in picking the word of the week.
slampadato (slam-PAHD-ah-toh) — noun: one who tans his or her skin using sunlamps.
I must clarify here that the definition and the pronunciation are mine. Honestly, I’m not convinced this word actually exists. It probably does, but it’s hard to tell because slampadato appeared in a July post at Mental Floss about words that lack a direct English translation. This post went viral, and consequently a Google search for slampadato or its listmates turns up mostly other lists calling attention to the fact that such hard-to-translate words exist. (Among those listmates, notably: luftmensch (“an impractical dreamer with no business sense” in Yiddish), boketto (“gazing vacantly into the distance” in Japanese), and Kummerspeck (a German word figuratively meaning “excess weight gain from emotional eating” but literally meaning “grief bacon.”)) It’s considerably harder to find anything that explains where the word comes from, how old it might be, whether it’s slang or whether it’s widely understood.

I’m inclined to think that slampadato is a word that some Italians might know, at least, because it’s featured in a 2006 L.A. Times article on Adam Jacot de Boinod’s book The Meaning of Tingo, itself a collection of the world’s most oddly specific words. (Tingo, by the way, is apparently an Easter Island word referring to the practice of borrowing a friend’s belongings one by one, until there are none left, Homer-to-Flanders-style.) And this Google+ post about slampadato at least got a response from someone with an Italian-sounding name claiming that it is in fact a word.

can you spot the slampadatos in this photo?
So what else is there to say about slampadato? Other than that it looks suspiciously like lampada, the Italian word for “lamp,” not much. I say English should adopt it. It’s a much better term than tanorexic, which describes a tanning addict but logically seems like it should refer someone who avoids sun exposure as much as possible. (In my head, anyway, anorexia : tanorexia :: overeating : sun-gorging or something along those lines.) Besides, slampadato is fun to say. And that’s the real measure of a word’s worth, right?

Previous words of the week after the jump.
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