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<   No. 1226   2006-06-05   >

Comic #1226

1 [sound]: RIIING!
1 Ishmael: Now what? {answers his cell phone}
2 Giuseppe: {over phone} Ishmael? It's Giuseppe! Urgent pizza delivery! Get down here and pick it up! Presto!
3 Ishmael: Where to?
3 Giuseppe: {over phone} Room 42, Melville House, at the university.
4 Ishmael: Room 42, Mel... That's my room!

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Yes, Ishmael has a pizza on his shirt for a reason. He works part time at Giuseppe's, the local pizza joint. I considered giving Giuseppe a strong Italian accent by making-a alla his-a words-a end-a inna da vowels, like-a dis. But I figured one stereotypically accented character in IWC is enough.

2015-10-30 Rerun commentary: My favourite local pizza place is run by a guy and his wife, who, although I have never asked, I am pretty sure are immigrants from Italy. When my wife and I enter the restaurant, he always greets us with a friendly "buona sera", and we get a "ciao" when we leave.

Here Giuseppe uses the Italian word "presto", meaning "quickly". An English speaker might instead use the word "pronto", which in English carries much the same meaning - "quickly". But although the word is borrowed from Italian, in Italian "pronto" actually means something different - "ready".

My Italian-English dictionary contains the following note under the headword "pronto":

La parole "pronto" è usata in inglese ma con il significato di "subito", "immediatamente".
Which translates to "The word 'pronto' is used in English but with the meaning of 'right away', 'immediately'."

EDIT: Several readers have pointed out that "pronto" also exists in Spanish, and means "right away", "immediately", the same as in English. So it's far more likely - both in terms of meaning and ethnolinguistically, considering the relative cultural influences on American English - that "pronto" was adopted into English from Spanish, not Italian.

I can only blame my relative knowledge of Italian versus my ignorance of Spanish for my oversight. I guess I'll have to start learning Spanish as well some day...

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