Every Once in a Pope’s Death

14 Nov

Yep, that’s pretty much the way Italians say “almost never.” It reoccured to me this morning, as my friends and I were tweeting about the massive general workers’ strike today (which I plan to recap later this evening with a few photos). One of my friends who is relatively new to Rome said she couldn’t believe Rome could get even more chaotic than it normally was. And I reminded her that Rome can ALWAYS get more chaotic: the pope could die!

Which made me think of the etymology of this phrase I know. (Because that’s simply how nerdy I actually am.) So you know I typed it into the all-knowing, all-seeing Google.

Ogni morte di papa.

Best part of the Wikipedia article, IMHO?

Well, besides the general definition, which, if you are unaware, is defined thus: “Used as hyperbole, the phrase “every once in a pope’s death” refers to the fact that the death of a pope (or another prelate) is an unusual event that usually creates a prolonged sense of time.”

But THIS is the part I like the bestest:

L’espressione “ogni morte di Papa” indica una frequenza rarissima e a sua volta “ogni morte di vescovo” indica una frequenza rara.

“‘Every once in a pope’s death’ indicates a really rare event, while ‘every once in a bishop’s death’ is just a rare event.”

I love that. How the whole Church hierarchy can be used to define the frequency of events.

Hey! I even learned a new word while writing this post: polirematica.

This is certainly a word I will never again have the opportunity to use, but it is applied to this phrase.

Google translates it to “multiword.” That’s fun. I don’t think that’s even a real word, that there “multiword,” but it makes sense all the same. Others in the polirematica family include “UFO” pronounced in Italy “oooh-foh” and “a iosa” which frankly, in 11 years in Italy, I don’t think I’ve ever heard.

What I do hear now, however, from my office window off of Piazza Venezia, is all the honking horns and blowing whistles, as well as some poorly projected recorded music (?? communist anthems??) most likely indicating that the lovely little workers’ parade seems to have arrived. Yikes. More on that soon.


3 Responses to “Every Once in a Pope’s Death”

  1. Franco November 14, 2012 at 4:18 pm #

    An other tipycal old roman sentance due to french and spanish politican influence to the Pontificial State was “Spagna o Francia purchè se magna” France or Spain upto we got food.

  2. Maurice Labi November 16, 2012 at 9:42 am #

    It’s great how simple proverbs encapsulate so much wisdom. Throw one around and everyone knows what’s being said without being long-winded.

  3. Filottete Manfredi November 16, 2012 at 4:03 pm #

    The expression “a josa” is used a lot in Firenze, Tuscany

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