Monday, 14 November 2011

Show's over

   Yesterday a headline in the French news read, “Berlusconi – une sortie en catimini”. I couldn't recall seeing the word catimini before and so looked it up.
   It sounded a little as if his exit from political office was chaotic or calamitous, but it turned out leaving en catimini means “sneaking out” or even “sneaking out under shameful circumstances”. Some say that the shameful aspect can be explained by the association of the word catimini with menstruation, “catamenia” being a medical word for menstrual fluid (in the 16th and 17th centuries the phrase avoir ses catimini meant “to have one's period”). However, others think this etymology fanciful and suspect that catimini has more to do with the skulking habits of felines and has its origins in the Picard language of northern France; cate (cat) + mini from min also designating “cat” and the root of minou, minette (kitty, pussy). Minette and “pussy” both refer to a cat and both are slang terms for the female genitalia – a linguistic analogy demonstrated by French and English sub-editors who translated Berlusconi's crass exhortation, Forza Gnocca! (an intended parody of his party's slogan, Forza Italia!) as Allez Minette! and “Go Pussy!”.

Well, whatever the language, he's gone. Probably.