I probably shouldn't post this, lest I offend someone's delicate sensibilities, ma parliamoci chiaro, let's be frank: Roman culture is embraced, shrouded, and engulfed in vulgarity. I think it would be safe to say that vulgarity, in fact, can easily be considered part and parcel of the true "spirito romano," the Roman spirit, the "anima romana," the Roman soul. I'm not making a judgement call, just stating the facts, ma'am. I call it as I see it.
Romans don't really have a distinct dialect, per se, but they do have a heavy accent and specific sayings that other regions and areas don't have. In my experience, Italians look down on the Roman way of speaking and when I was learning Italian, most Italians and even many Romans I encountered warned me not to "pick up the Roman accent" or "learn to speak from Romans." Well, too late for that. I've become a strange hybrid creature who sounds remotely foreign yet kind of Roman at the same time. The Romans find this quite amusing and very strange.
Hand in hand with the verbal vulgarity of the Roman culture (formally known as "romanaccio") goes a certain sense of humor that I haven't encountered anywhere else. The spirito romano, in my experience, is completely and totally irreverent, and at times can be incredibly quick-witted. Take, for example, a random sampling of stories of Romans behaving as Romans do, found simply by typing "battute Romane" or "Roman jokes" into Google:
Realmente accaduto a Roma a bordo della Metro A
Una signora espone il biglietto integrato giornaliero al controllore. Signora: "Mi scusi, con questo posso viaggiare tutto il giorno?". Controllore: "Si nun c'hai 'n cazzo da fa'... Sì".
True story from the Metro A Line
A woman shows her all-day bus pass to the inspector. Woman: "Excuse me, but with this pass can I ride all day?" Inspector: "If you don't have a f***ing thing to do... yes."
Realmente accaduto in via Nomentana
Un signore alquanto anziano resta immobile con la sua macchina allo scattare del verde e il ragazzo di dietro con una macchinetta alquanto sportiva abbassa il finestrino, si sporge e esclama: "A nonno, guarda che più verde de così nun diventa!".
Really happened in via Nomentana
A rather elderly gentleman remains stopped in his car when the light turns green, and the guy behind him in a rather sporty car rolls down his window, sticks his head out and exclaims: "Look here grampa, it's not going to get any greener than that!"
Sentita sulla Boccea
Un tizio di mezza età a bordo di una 156 rivolgendosi al vecchietto a bordo di una vecchia 600 ferma al semaforo: "Che aspettamo che se mette 'n moto l'asfarto pe' annassene da 'sto 'ncrocio!?".
Overheard on Boccea St.
A middle-aged guy in a 156, to an elderly man in an old 600 stopped at a traffic light: "What, are you waiting for the asphalt to start moving to get you out of this intersection?"
And then there's the never-ending lists of Roman one-liners, kind of like an Italian version of the dozens. (By the way, I find it hilarious that there's a Wikipedia article on that phenomenon. But I digress...) Here's what I'm talking about:
"Quanno ride pare 'n cruciverba"
When you laugh, it looks like a crossword puzzle.
"Sei tarmente zozzo che quanno entri dentro casa mia er cane se va a mette er collare antipulci!"
You're so filthy that when you come over to my house, my dog goes and puts on a flea collar.
"Sei tarmente brutto che tu' padre ar firmino de quanno facevi n'anno c'ha messo a colonna sonora de X-Files"
You're so ugly that when your dad made a video of your first birthday party, he put the X-Files as the soundtrack.
"C'hai er naso tarmente lungo che pare che te sei pippato er Viagra!"
Your nose is so long it's like you've been sniffing Viagra.
And those are just some of the (very few) PG-rated ones. Most Roman battute really know no bounds of good taste and delve into areas of verbal vulgarity that I did not know existed, and yet still, I laugh. Looks like I have become Roman after all. Granted, I've never really heard anyone use any insults like this in "real life," but they do get traded around at times, like, I heard this one, did you hear this one? I can already see the cultural heritage that will be passed down to my kids.
But the real inspiration for this post is the ubiquitous phrase "li mortacci" and the fact that it has spawned its very own website. Li mortacci is basically a vulgar Roman way of saying, well, I guess something like "may your dead relatives die again," although I really don't know for sure. Let's just say it's an all-purpose curse on your dead loved ones, or the dead loved ones of anyone or anything you care to insult. You say it when you're ticked about what something or someone did, does, has, is, etc. And for a true Roman flourish, go ahead and pronounce the "L" like an "R" 'cuz that's just what they do around here. (All together now: "ree-more-TAH-chee") I know, I shouldn't be teaching you how to swear in Roman dialect, but, it's fun. Avery had a post on Roman slang not too long ago as well, and there were bad words...it's impossible to avoid, I'm telling you.
Now, for a very recent example. Ale and I were trying to install a showerhead set in our bathroom this weekend, one that turned out to be ridiculously complicated and cryptic, missing parts, and totally frustrating for something that should be stupidly easy. So, here we have "li mortacci loro." Curse their dead ancestors. "Them" being all those even remotely involved with planning, designing, and/or building, packaging or selling aforementioned showerhead.
What is all this nonsense leading up to? A website that I found while innocently checking my Gmail. No idea how the Google ad-matching algorithm decided that an ad for a site called limortacci.com had anything to do with my email. For that matter, no idea why a site like this is investing in Google Adwords. But, the world is full of mysteries. Curious as I am, I clicked on it, and lo and behold I discovered an entire forum and virtual world where you can vent your frustrations and tensions, using the phrase to curse the dead ancestors of pretty much whoever you feel like. Clicking on the forum I found li mortacci my alarm clock, my math teacher, my neighbors... even illegible online nicknames (the example given being udsjhf69vdsi0op5465467, which I think we can all agree is quite illegible and perhaps even deserving of a li mortacci or two). The forum is subdivided into a few specific categories so you can send a hearty "li mortacci" to the government, your love life problems, and hospitals as well. (I am very troubled, but unfortunately not surprised, that "hospitals" has its very own category on the forum.)
In short, if you ever decide to move to Rome, and you really want to understand the local culture, you're going to have to learn not only Italian, but "Roman," or rather "bad Roman," ie, Romanaccio. I am not ashamed to say that I love it, no matter how much the Italians wrinkle their noses at me. Complain as I might about how rude and crude Romans can be, I still heart 'em for it.