Pedalling and the pedantry of multiples

When the editor let me know that there would be a bit of cycling theme this month, I thought that would be the push I needed to dust off my old bike and take her for a hurl. I had grand visions of my cycling companions and I effortlessly gliding to the summit of Mossy Hill and looking over St Ninian’s Isle on mid-summers night. From there I was to be inspired to wax lyrically in these pages about the joys of pushbikes, companionship and the glory of a Shetland summer.

However, it had been many years since I’d been on a velocipede and this didn’t turn out to be an inspirational return to form I had naively hoped. I trundled around for a couple of miles to test the old penny farthing, tired myself out within 10 minutes and gave myself 2-day spaegie. And back in the shed the bike went.

That was the end of that, and it was back to the drawing boards with this month’s column.

So, on a complete tangent, this month’s rather pedantic subject is the misuse of Italian foodstuff multiples – specifically, Panino / Panini (good grief, even my spellchecker had to be manually overridden as I typed that). Put simply, a Panino is an Italian sandwich (literally meaning small bread roll), often toasted. Panini are two or more Panino.

So asking for a Panini is the equivalent of asking for one sandwiches and, even worse, asking catachrestically for two Paninis is like asking for two sandwicheses.

How have we ended up with this widely accepted yet erroneous situation? It’s probably just another example of English absorbing and synthesising outside linguistic influences. Or, as often happens when food crosses cultural boundaries, the correct pronunciation doesn’t quite manage to accompany the recipe on the journey. Or maybe it’s just lazy language.

I can perhaps forgive a customer for making this mistake whilst ordering some grub (my, how big of me it is to pardon such an ‘errore’), but surely restaurateurs should know their trade well enough to avoid such a collective corruption of collectives.

Do most Italians, I wonder, find this as irritating as I do? Probably not, as most people aren’t as pernickety as I am.

Article for Shetland Life magazine – July 2012