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La Lava(n)na ...Lava(g)na, Semantics Italian Kindergarten Style

If you grew up in Sicily, chances are that your first language was Sicilian. Indeed, the Sicilian language is recognized by UNESCO as unique, like Italian or Neapolitan, with its own structure and grammatical patterns.

Yet, as children growing up in Sicily, we were convinced that Sicilian was a dialect and that we needed to be indoctrinated in speaking and writing the Italian language.

My rebellion against systemic rules began early. Upon attending kindergarten the first day, I overheard my mother conversing casually with other parents.

"Portano la lavagna a scuola!"

"They are bringing the chalkboard to school!"

Since I did not know what a lavagna, or chalkboard, was, I heard,

"Portano la lavanna (1) a scuola!"

"They are bringing the enema bag kit to school!"

My remote but vivid encounters with the 'lavanna' suddenly surfaced in my brain to stir a rebellion.

"Io non voglio 'la lavanna!" I screamed.

"I don't want a cleansing with an enema bag kit!"

I refused to enter through the kindergarten door. My mom was smiling and, being the reasonable person who she always was, calmly showed what a lava(g)na looked like through the classroom windows. Suddenly, my emotional temper tantrum calmed down. The lava(g)na, not the lava(n)na, a chalkboard, was used to write on and not to repeat a cleansing of bowels.

(1) The Sicilian word ‘lavanna’ is a ‘lavaggio’ in the Italian language, a wash or cleansing. In my village, a ‘lavanna’ referred to a process with an enema bag kit, commonly used to relieve children from constipation.

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