As we witness the death of fun in our increasingly ugly and puritanical world, Pissed-off Toff offers some light relief in the shape of Angela Merkel’s bum …
As my readers throughout the world now know, I have been working on the memoirs of Lord R. A few days ago, while looking over the chapters about his life as a young man-about-town in the 1960s and early 1970s, I realised that a theme that emerges unstoppably is what fun people had in those days, and how free they were.
Pursuing this line of thought, I asked myself when was the last time that I had a bit of unalloyed, carefree fun. It was, I realise, ages ago. For many years, now, we have been living in an increasingly oppressive and puritanical world in which more and more things are banned or in danger of being banned, with almost every area of our lives subject to the dictates of zealots and fanatics; so that the so-called ‘lockdown’, during which the whole country was reduced to abject serfdom, was not – I would argue – an exceptional episode, but the culmination of a process that has been going on for some time.
For me, certainly, fun and joy are distant memories as I endure a life blighted by the endless hectoring, nagging and lecturing that assail us from all sides, if not about one thing, then another: ‘social distancing’, ‘man-made global warming’, ‘climate emergency’, ‘carbon footprint’, ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, ‘equality’, ‘diversity’, ‘safety’. Not only this, but if you have a job that you want to keep, more and more thoughts and opinions are now unsayable. We are thus building for ourselves a world which becomes uglier by the day, and in which carefree fun is an increasingly distant memory. Friends urge me to forget it and ‘get on with it’. Would they have said the same to someone in Soviet Russia or Nazi Germany who could not ignore what he saw going on all around him?
Which, I suppose, brings us to today’s topic: Angela Merkel’s bum. Not so long ago I had a regular bilingual column in a magazine called Italia! I was free to write on any topic related to Italy that took my fancy, as a parallel text in both English and Italian (I suppose that the intention was that it should have some educational value). At some stage my editor there, whom I adored, was replaced by an insignificant little man, and possibly as a tease, I sent in the following article … which was never published, and which resulted in my immediate dismissal. Here it is, in both English and Italian.
Why now, you might ask. Well, Angela Merkel is on the way out, so what follows comes by way of a farewell. And, as I say, what we see all around us, nowadays, is the death of fun. This must be the topic of a full-length essay after I have finished Lord R’s memoir. But in the meantime, here is the little bit of fun that got me sacked. As I perhaps suspected it would …
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An unflattering epithet
The Tuscany-based painter, sculptor and author Matthew Spender has suggested that I should write about the epithet una culona inchiavabile which Silvio Berlusconi allegedly used to describe Angela Merkel, the chancellor of Germany. Not only am I extremely fond of Matthew and his wife Maro, whose daughters I tutored many summers ago (an experience which convinced the two young girls that all Englishmen are mad), but I like the idea. So here goes.
First, a bit of background. According to the authoritative political blog Il Fatto Quotidiano, the incident dates back to a telephone conversation in October 2008 between Silvio Berlusconi, then prime minister of Italy, and a fixer of his called Gianpaolo Tarantini. In this exchange, which was recorded by Italy’s finance police but in the transcript of which eight lines were blacked out, Berlusconi allegedly described Angela Merkel as una culona inchiavabile and his own country as un paese di merda.
The alleged contents of the conversation surfaced in September 2011, when all hell broke loose; and the affair was revived more recently when Jeremy Paxman, interviewing Berlusconi for Newsnight last year, defied all conventions by asking him point-blank whether he really did describe Merkel as ‘an unfuckable lardarse’. After a long pause during which the off-screen interpreter struggled to translate Paxman’s words back into the original Italian, Berlusconi made a gesture as though to say “I am so so not going to go there.”
However, no-one doubts that that is how he did describe Merkel. So let’s take a closer look at this epithet, as graphic as it is unflattering. Culona means ‘female with a large bum’. But note that on its own it is not necessarily pejorative. Indeed, quite the opposite, because applied to J-Lo, Kim Kardashian or Beyoncé, it would imply hearty approval. It all depends on the context, which in this case was not good, due to the qualifying adjective inchiavabile. Chiave means ‘key’ and the transitive verb chiavare refers to the sexual act. So as Paxman informed us, inchiavabile means … well, you already know.
I should, I suppose, throw up my hands in pious horror. But I won’t. Because this hilarious episode reminds us once again that whereas the Anglo-Saxon world is in abject thrall to the despotism of PC, the Italians are not; and in my view they are all the more human and likeable for it.
Un epiteto poco lusinghiero
L’artista ed autore Matthew Spender, residente in Toscana, ha suggerito che farei bene a scrivere dell’epiteto ‘culona inchiavabile’ che Silvio Berlusconi avrebbe usato per descrivere Angela Merkel, la cancelliera tedesca. Non solo sono estremamente affezionato a Matthew ed a sua mogie Maro, alle cui figlie feci da tutor molti anni fa (un’esperienza che convinse le due fanciulle che tutti gli inglesi sono matti), ma l’idea mi sembra buona e divertente.
Cominciamo con il contesto. Secondo Il Fatto Quotidiano, un autorevole blog politico, tutto risale ad una conversazione telefonica in ottobre 2008 tra Silvio Berlusconi, all’epoca primo ministro d’Italia, e il pappone Gianpaolo Tarantini. In questo scambio, che fu intercettato dalla Guardia di Finanza ma nella trascrizione del quale otto righe sono state oscurate da un pennarello nero, Berlusconi avrebbe definito la Merkel ‘una culona inchiavabile’ e l’Italia ‘un paese di merda’.
Queste presunte indiscrezioni si fecero vive nel campo pubblico in settembre 2011, così scatenando una crisi internazionale; e più recentemente l’affare fu rivisitato quando durante un’intervista con Berlusconi per la Bbc l’anno scorso, il giornalista Jeremy Paxman sfidò tutte le norme e gli chiese direttamente se avesse veramente definito la Merkel ‘una culona inchiavabile’. Dopo una lunga pausa durante la quale l’interprete invisibile stentò a tradurre le parole di Paxman verso l’italiano d’origine, Berlusconi fece un gesto con le due mani come per dire “Non dico proprio niente”.
Comunque, in realtà nessuno ha dubbi riguardo le parole che Berlusconi avrebbe usato per descrivere la Merkel. È tutto assolutamente verosimile. Guardiamo quindi quest’epiteto, esplicito quant’è tagliente. Si noti, per prima, che usato da solo, il termine ‘culona’ non è per forza spregiativo. Anzi, se lo si usasse per descrivere la Lopez, Kim Kardashian o Beyoncé, tutte con posteriori famosamente generosi, il senso sarebbe interamente positivo. Tutto dipende quindi dal contesto, che in questo caso la presenza dell’aggettivo ‘inchiavabile’ rende alquanto negativo.
Suppongo che dovrei alzare le mani in un gesto di orrore bigotto. Ma non lo farò. Mi chiedete perché? Ebbene, quest’affare, a mio parere francamente divertente, ci fa ricordare che mentre il mondo anglo-sassone è oramai lo schiavo impotente della dottrina tirannica del ‘politicamente corretto’, il Bel Paese non lo è; il ché per me è un ulteriore indizio dell’umanità essenziale degli italiani.