Che cosa stai dicendo, Willis?

7 May

Ok, I admit it. I know I should be really ashamed for my sheer delight in finding little Arnold Drummond plastered on the side of a centuries-old building during a Sunday stroll yesterday. I’d say he’s at least 3 feet tall or so. But as you may know, I am pretty numbed towards graffiti in my neighborhood, and I can’t help but be amused by random and mysterious urban street symbolism (remember Untho?).

Anyhoo, found this guy around the corner from Piazza S. Maria in Trastevere. If you’re familiar with the area, it’s posted right in front of that bar that seems to be the headquarters for the Rome grunge movement, and where to my horror Ale swears some of the best gelato in all of the city is made. I’ve been dragged in there enough times but I still am not convinced. If I’m feeling brave one day, maybe I’ll attempt a post about it.

But for today, how’s about some Arnold trivia for you? Did you know that Diff’rent Strokes was called “Harlem contro Manhattan”(Harlem against Manhattan) in Italy? Then it was inexplicably changed to “Il mio amico Arnold” (My friend Arnold) and in its final mutation, simply “Arnold.” Personally, I think the Japanese said it best: “Arnold bouya wa ninkimono .” Apparently this is a “literal title” but what it literally translates too, one can only wonder.

I have learned that there was a theme song in Italian but to my dismay have not been able to find any audio copies of it online, just the picture from the album, which was being auctioned off on Italian eBay, but alas, I missed that one too. Not that I have a record player for 45s, but who knows, perhaps I would have bought one just to listen to it.

Would any of you Italian speakers out there be interested in the lyrics? I did manage to dig those up. Thanks to Nico Fidenco for the composition.
Oh, what the heck. Let’s just go ahead and translate some of the choicer gems, for the ridiculousness of it all. I mean, what did I learn Italian for, after all, right? Just keep in mind that in the original Italian version, IT ALL RHYMED.

ARNOLD
——————————-
Arnold a-ha
Arnold a-ha

Arnold, Arnold, sempre nei guai
una ne pensi e cento ne fai

Arnold Arnold zarattata’
giri la testa e lui te la fa

Arnold Arnold zarattata’
giri la testa e lui te la fa

Lo trovi nascosto in un vecchio cassetto
sorriso da furbo, occhi da matto

You find him hidden in an old drawer,
smiling like a trickster with crazy eyes

ti prende il tubetto del dentifricio
lo spalma felice per tutto l’ufficio

He takes your tube of toothpaste
and happily spreads it all over the office

Arnold a-ha

Se sulla faccia ti salta un ranocchio
o la pallina ti arriva in un occhio
o in tasca trovi la zampa di un’oca
puoi star sicuro che e’ Arnold che gioca

If a frog jumps on your face,
or a ball hits you in the eye,
or you find a ..wait… what’s a zampa di un’oca? a goose’s claw? in your pocket,
you can be sure that’s Arnold playing

Arnold, Arnold, sempre nei guai
una ne pensi e cento ne fai

Arnold Arnold zarattata’
giri la testa e lui te la fa

Bicchieri e piatti rotti
li trovi dentro i letti
la scatola del lucido
e’ piena di confetti

Broken cups and plates,
you find them in the beds,
the shoe polish can
is full of candies

And then it repeats itself again… ah, the joy. If only I knew the melody, we could all sing together. And by the way, where the heck was I when Arnold was putting broken plates in the beds? Was that one of the “very special” episodes?

I did find the theme song in Italian to another old show though… did you ever read this post?

UPDATE (Sept. 2007): It appears that an enterprising reader has solved the mystery for us! There’s an entire collection of Arnold stencils in this Flickr pool. Could Zibe Tso be the mysterious Arnold artist??

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18 Responses to “Che cosa stai dicendo, Willis?”

  1. African Kelli May 7, 2007 at 8:07 pm #

    Oh, the American gems we choose to export…

  2. Ms Adventures in Italy May 7, 2007 at 10:14 pm #

    I saw that when I was there on Tuesday… :) And I totally agree about the gelato there!! You should do a writeup.

  3. Stelle in Italia May 7, 2007 at 10:35 pm #

    great stuff! that graffiti is going to have to top my list of what to see in rome!

  4. Michellanea May 8, 2007 at 5:32 am #

    Glad they chose to correct that “Harlem vs. Manhattan” gaffe. Harlem is in Manhattan, duh. The choice of graffiti and such in your neighborhood is mind boggling. The craziest thing we have around here is – to my embarrassment – “Padania Libera!” I think it’s just stupid teenagers, though, and not any hard-core separatists or Bossi supporters.

  5. Anonymous May 8, 2007 at 8:50 am #

    The American gems….http://www.serialtv.it/telefilm/(A)

  6. Tamara May 8, 2007 at 11:07 am #

    Hilarious. Watching American shows in Italy is always an experience. What’s most jarring for me is seeing well known actors speaking in completely different voices. It seems that no effort is made to match the voices of the voiceover artists with those of the original actors. In fact, I noticed that in the case of leading men, there seems to be a tendency to make their Italian voices deeper – maybe a macho thing.

  7. Shelley - At Home in Rome May 8, 2007 at 12:54 pm #

    Kel: I know! But just think, you have MEXICAN television, which, IMHO, is even better.Ms: You saw it!? I love that. And you’re on Ale’s side about that gelato? Argh. I guess I should add it to the gelato tour then. But just getting through the whole gelato-ordering process there is such a debacle, no?Stelle: When are you coming to Rome?Mich: At least they didn’t call it Manhattan contro The Bronx. Don’t you think it’s funny how Itals use the term “The Bronx” to indicate any horrible and dangerous neighborhood or place? My pal Brendan, who lives in Rome, grew up there. Just think of the admiration he gets from the Italians… “he lived to tell the tale…” ;-)Anon: Checked out the website… is that supposed to bring me to the audio clip? Please say yes. I couldn’t find it.Tamara: Even funnier is when an Italian watches a movie in original language and hears the real voice for the first time. They are always incredibly disappointed. As far as voices matching… the only celebrity I ever really met and got to know over a week when he was working on a film that Ale was also working on was Don Johnson, and he saw one of his movies on Italian TV, and swore it sounded just like him. Too funny.

  8. nyc/caribbean ragazza May 8, 2007 at 2:11 pm #

    I really don’t know what to say. If I had seen that graffitti earlier this year, I would have laughed my ass off.Poor Gary Coleman is now doing 1-800-get-cash commericals. So sad. The Bronx is back..South Bronx is now called SoBro. Seriously.

  9. chris & erin May 8, 2007 at 5:23 pm #

    hAHAHAHA! I laughed so hard….please, please show me this when I visit you in Sept!

  10. Shelley - At Home in Rome May 8, 2007 at 6:11 pm #

    NYC: Yeah, it’s definitely new, b/c I didn’t see it before I left last month. And I did laugh my ass off, I can assure you. And, oh. Just sad about 1-800-cash. I mean, not sarcastic-let’s-make-fun-of-him sad, just plain old sad.But…SoBro? Oh come on!Erin: Gladly! Seeing the frequency with which graffiti like that is taken down (ie, dinosaur speed), it will almost certainly still be there. Then we can get a gelato at the grunge bar and you can tell me if you agree with Ms. Adventures.

  11. Julie May 9, 2007 at 2:58 am #

    You’re back! :-)

  12. Alec May 9, 2007 at 3:55 am #

    Hehe, I wonder why someone would put that sort of graffiti up! Haha.If you’re interested, “Arnold bouya wa ninkimono” means “Arnold boy is a popular kid”.

  13. Shelley - At Home in Rome May 9, 2007 at 8:13 am #

    Julie: I am in indeed! Here all summer for Roman blogging adventures. ;-)Alec: Yes, I am very interested, and more than just a little impressed by your translation skills. Wow!! And, grazie! I do like how it translates… very catchy.

  14. Cynthia Rae May 9, 2007 at 10:50 am #

    I read this yesterday, but my computer wasn’t allowing me to open the comments. Thanks a lot! I was singing the English version ALL DAY! hehehehhe!Cyn

  15. Delina May 10, 2007 at 6:22 pm #

    Hahaha I can’t believe that’s really up there! Different Strokes to rule the world la la la (me singing)I have watched this in Italian. It used to be on early mornings. That was in the days before Sky of course :)

  16. rebecca May 11, 2007 at 11:55 pm #

    i have to say that i loved the graffitti stencil of amelie (of the french film of the same name) all around the campo dei fiori when i was in rome (just a month ago, sigh.)also, i saw a documentary in san francisco a couple months at the independent film festival here all about graffitti in rome.

  17. zibe_tso April 10, 2008 at 12:09 pm #

    thanx…

  18. Giovanni May 28, 2010 at 10:43 pm #

    Hi, I found this post, in the sad day of Gary Coleman’s death, searching for someone on the net remembering the very first run of Diff’rent Strokes in Italy, and it turns out that it’s a non-italian person! Anyway at this link, if you still want to hear it, there is the (quite awful) song:
    http://video.libero.it/app/play?id=f4c6704cfb70f942a8060e97ffd7f646

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