The Pope, The Fuses, And The “C”-Word.

Yours truly believes in robust language. If the Bible has “whore” (perhaps not many translations have it; but the classical ones do), then he will not consider himself too fine for the Bible. Evidently, God inspired the use of robust language, when a robust concept has to be expressed. This blog is a permanent testimony of the blog author's opinion in the matter.

Like any other fairly well educated Italian male – to women other rules apply, because of the natural sweetness and gentleness of their sex – I consider language a tool, with which to express all the multicoloured nuances of life and, alas, of the Italian character. But like every other person, I have “mental fuses” preventing me from pronouncing certain words; words the mind generally recoils from even thinking. Still, on very rare occasions, an overflow of adrenaline will cause all fuses to explode; and then – but only thencertain very vulgar words – not words you find in the Bible, like “whore”, or words you intentionally use as mockery and communication tool, like “faggot”; but a world like the Italian “c” word – may get out of my mouth; a behaviour for which, by the way, anger can be an extenuating circumstance, but no excuse.

Now: in Italian there are many popular ways to express the male genitals. A socially avceptable way in a joking all-male (note: all male) context is, say, uccello (bird). Far more vulgar, but still used by people of lesser sophistication, or who are getting rather emotional, is the word pisello (“pea”; but actually rather “cock”).

But then there is another word, off the chart in the vulgarity scale, and never used in conversation among, say, people who had Latin at school or care for proper language. I know no English equivalent for it, as “prick” does not even begin to give the meaning. This very vulgar word is, to use the previous imagery, protected by numerous fuses, and his use will only be occasioned, in better educated people, by barely controllable busts of rage. It needs a truly massive flow of adrenaline to cause an educated Italian layman to say the “c” word. I cannot imagine a priest ever using it; not even a Don Camillo in the midst of a fisticuff party with a bunch of communists.

Imagine the other “c” word existing in English. The four-lettered one. Could you imagine it ever used by a priest, no matter how angry?

Not so, it must sadly be said, for the male working classes; who, having sex permanently in their mind, use that word liberally. But we are talking here of what we in Italy call linguaggio da muratore, “builders' language”, which is a different animal altogether.

The Italian working classes can be compared, in their vulgar language, to many Brits and Americans, who use the “f” word with great liberality. But in general, and among halfway educated people, the Italian “c” word would be consider graver than the English “f” word, simply for the reason that Italian – like German, or French – is socially much better protected from swearing than English.

And here comes the point: in all my years in Italy I have never, never ever, never ever ever heard such a vulgar word come out of anyone's mouth as a slip of the tongue. The obvious system of mental fuses I have explained above takes care that this does not happen. Not to the one who learnt Latin, of course; but believe me: not to the builder, either. Not to the builder, either.

If, therefore, anyone were to utter such a word as a slip of the tongue – something which, let us say it once again, I have never experienced; never, ever – I could not escape the impression that the person having such “slip” of the tongue has such a dirty mind, and uses vulgar language so liberally in his private conversation, that the fuses are just not there; and when this is the case, it is just a matter of time before the filth one has inside comes out.

Think of the four-lettered English “c” word, and reflect on how often you heard it pronounced as a slip of the tongue. It can't be, can it? Too many fuses protecting your mouth. Simple as that.

Now, I can only imagine two situations here:

1. There is in Spanish a word that sounds like the “c” word Francis has employed, but with an innocuous meaning. In this case, it may well be that someone has a momentary confusion, and says the wrong word utterly unintentionally, and innocently. This would explain the extremely natural way in which the Pope has pronounced the word, as if it were a word he uses commonly.

2. Francis speaks like a builder in those rare times out of the reach of a camera or microphone, and has – like the typical working class male – sexual imagery constantly on his head; which translates in constant foul language; which translates in the absence of fuses of any kind; which causes the event in the video above.

If this was the first time this Pope is disquieting, I would try to shrug the incident away as an embarrassing moment, though a very embarrassing one.

As this, though, comes from the Pope who says all the scandalous things Francis says, I wonder whether God is not sending us a message here: gently helping the Pollyannas to understand they just cannot trust the spontaneous statements of the man.

Let me say it once again: this can be a language mishap, due to Spanish being his first tongue. But barring this, boy, this is a mind I would not want to look into



Posted on March 4, 2014, in Catholicism, Conservative Catholicism, Traditional Catholicism and tagged , . Bookmark the permalink. 22 Comments.

  1. Not that there’s any context that makes sense of this, but in what context did this utterance arise?

  2. Esiste il noto precedente di Antonella Clerici (allora) giornalista sportiva, che voleva dire “io non posso vivere senza calcio”, e invece ha detto questo:

    • But we call this a freudian slip, then… 😉

      I hope the only precedent is not only a woman telling us what she can’t live without…


  3. ladyofquality

    It had to be innocent, considering how calm he looked while he said it; but far be it from me to understand the intricacies of Spanish vs. Italian, as you are no doubt privy to.

    The extremely grotesque nature of the word is shocking, though. I also didn’t realize that Americans are more commonly vulgar than other nationalities. It is very common to hear regular church-goers talk like truck drivers, though (or construction workers, your choice).

    Maybe he doesn’t know Italian well? Maybe he’s never heard of the word? Is that possible for him?

    Would’ve loved to have been in that audience as a native Italian speaker though! Bet some espressos were choked on!

  4. I in some way intuitively understand that you have my same ‘ imprinting ‘ in Italian education of the sixties – seventies . Let’s say , probably liceo classico/scientifico and Latin ‘ good old style ‘ However , I have never imagined what you wrote about the Bible ‘ blunt’ language in the first six lines of this article . Your journalism is unusual in Italian contemporary spectrum.
    I can’t grasp – how much have British and German cultures influenced you ? How does it feel
    being Catholic in G.B. , in comparison to being Anglican ? What have you gained, and what
    have you lost ( if you do have lost something ) by living – I imagine – many years abroad ?

    • You are perceptive, Marco, but I am not a journalist, merely another angry layman and amateur blogger who prefers to say it as it is.
      I do not like much to talk about myself, as this blog is not about myself. I am, like everyone of us, in part unavoidably the product of my experience. If I had remained in Italy I would have been by now a different person, very possibly writing in a different way. But I write in English, which makes things different again.


  5. We are truely living through the “Coprophagian Papacy”. But then again, I don’t think anyone has accused the bishop of Rome of having learnt Latin. 😉

    Come to think of it, maybe that is why he is so bad at theology.

  6. It seems Pope Francis has had other slips too: Read the “Concluding thoughts” i.e. the last five paragraphs of this long article by Randy Engel. Let us hope this Pope is just very awful at speaking more than one language…which should have kept him from the job to begin with…helps to avoid all of the scandal from wrong words. God bless~

  7. Probably in Italian seminars,yes, still Latina, but in Argentina…
    However the mishap arises for the different pronounciation of ” s” in Italian and in Argentinian Spanish, which is a bit different and sounds a bit different from Spanish spoken in Spain. So the Argentinian ” s” is more like a ” z” in Italian or English.
    Any way never ever ever Woytila, who was Polish, or Ratzinger, German, had a mishap like this speaking in Italian. So one may wonder…

    • Yes, and the word was very clearly a “double zz”.
      So it was not the way he says “caso”.
      Notice how, when he corrects himself, he shows he can pronounce the word perfectly well.

  8. Mundabor,
    to me it sounds like he misspoke in a very embarassing way, nothing more, nothing less. He said… the word almost directly after “servizio” which has a very similar “z” sound in it (and is “servicio” in Spanish, which, in certain parts of Latin America, is pronounced like “servisio” with the same “s” sound as in “caso”). I assume he tried to pronounce “servizio” in a correct Italian manner, which he did, probably concentrating on pronouncing the “z” correctly. Then, two or three words later, he got to “caso”, where he inadvertently continued to make the same substitution of sounds, replacing the “s” sound with an “Italian z”. And out came… the word in question. Given the subtle differences of pronunciation in Italian and Spanish, he probably had the – for him (as a Latin American Spanish native speaker) at least slightly unfamiliar – “Italian z” in his mouth (so to speak), a sound that does not exist in his native language, as he went on to the next part of the sentence. Exactly the kind of mistake a Spanish native speaker would be liable to make.

    Given these circumstances the “slip of the tongue” theory is the most probable one in my view. What you say about “fuses” protecting the mind from even thinking certain words is certainly true, but sometimes you just tie a knot in your tongue and what comes out has no resemblance whatsoever to your thoughts.

    When he notices what he has done, he immediately corrects himself and continues with his scripted remarks. Which is exactly what every experienced public speaker would have done in the same situation, because any other reaction would have drawn even more attention to the error.

    Final thought: You rightly criticize people who regard lightning striking St. Peter’s or doves getting slaughtered as a telling Message from Above. I don’t think we should read too much into this little incident either. He provides enough theological errors for ten bloggers working full-time without getting into his linguistic ones… 😉

    • My country has plenty of Argentinian football players, and the difference between the sibilant “Z” sound in Argentina and in Italy is well known. But no, I am accustomed to the difference and can’t see Bergoglio slipping into the hard double z.
      The argument of Randy Engels below is the same reasoning I make. Even in that case, one can say he has read those concept in some pastoral situation. But the fact is, they came out very easily.
      He also has parents from Piedmont. Can’t imagine he has spent a life making such mistakes.

    • Mundabor,
      “Can’t imagine he has spent a life making such mistakes.”
      No, of course not. He does know how to pronounce Italian perfectly well. I am not talking about him not knowing the difference or regularly making such mistakes, but about the likelihood of this situation being caused by a rare, but given linguistical subtleties, understandable confusion, as opposed to an (intentional? why? Is it the freemasons?) introduction of extremely coarse language into Papal vocabulary.
      I would compare this to the situation of a fluent (non-native) English speaker who knows how to say “can’t” in standard British English, but then suddenly, while talking, shortens the “a” sound, and out comes the… other c-word. The sounds are different, but they are similar enough to cause a rare slip-up.
      But if you, as an Italian who is familiar with Argentinian Spanish, say that such a confusion is absolutely impossible, then I will not argue about it, because while I do have a working knowledge of both languages, I would not regard myself as an expert on the matter, and certainly lack the proficiency and fluency of a native speaker.

      I have read the article by Randy Engel and I must say, I’m not convinced. After all, I assume, neither you nor Mr. Engel had to look up the words in question in a dictionary. To be familiar with the word has nothing to do with being familiar with or approving of the practice. That we both know the word “cannibalism” does not mean we eat other humans or support or excuse the behavior. That Mr. Engel knows not just the words but also how common they are in “homosexual pornography” could be interpreted as him having an over-familiarity with “homosexual pornography”. Or it could just be seen as a concerned Christian doing his research.
      Also, it is obvious what he wanted to express: That the Curia occasionally produces “sh**” and that the media eats it up and likes it. Which words should he have used instead?

    • Ah, I speak Italian (from my parents, like the Pope) and English and can assure you the two example aren’t even remotely comparable.

      New blog post coming…


  9. had the pleasure of discovering your blog through the bibilicalfalseprophet site a few days ago. prayed a Hail Mary for you and that you continue this blog.

    i know you’re not into conspiracy theories so i won’t bother you about the Vatican infiltration by the freemasons coming to fruition, nor about prophecies that see this pope fulfilling the signs prior to the Second Coming.

    i’m just here to say that having observed the pope’s many publicity stunts since his election, i wouldn’t be surprised if the “c”-word wasn’t actually a carefully planned, intentional blunder meant to woo pagans even more into the Catholic religion before he turns it into a one-world-religion. (..oops sorry, did it again!)

    • Thanks for the kind words.

      Well, that’s a bit too much I think, as he would have other ways, like magazine covers. But he certainly wants this “I am a man of my times” perception of himself.

      Just as an aside: I cull every comment even vaguely, unintentionally or potentially smelling of sedevacantism.

      Intelligenti pauca…


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