This was a brief but friendly encounter on the Slovenian coast five months ago when we went to the bus station to meet my incoming uncle.
“Roma!” I heard behind me.
I turned and there was the cutest terrier with the fanciest collar ready to meet bestia. Bestia, who is male if anybody still doubts it, was all eyes. They got along splendidly from the first.
I looked up at the owner (always in this order), and it was a smiling blonde woman, about a decade older than me. I asked her: “Is this her name? Roma?”
You probably know that Roma is how Italians call Rome. But only now that I live about an hour and a half north of the Italian capital, I realise how it should be pronounced.
One would think it was done how they do it in the north of Italy: Roma, with the wide “o” sound, like Americans would say “Tom”. But you know that someone is a Roman when they call their city “Roooooma”, with the narrowest “o” in the world, like a Brit would say “appaaaaaalling”.
The funny thing is that this meeting took place in Piran on the Slovenian coast, about 700 km from Rome. The lady confirmed that this was indeed her dog’s name, and yes, they came from Rome. Another funny thing is that the conversation was conducted in Slovenian, my language. Amore stood by smiling until I translated to him: “This lady is Slovenian, from Ljubljana just like me, but she lives in Rome.”
That’s when the two started to chitchat in their singsong Roman dialect, and I could again observe the dogs in peace. They were super cute. It crossed my mind to take a photo of the lady as well, but I thought it might be rude. She was alone but said that she was married to a Roman man and they had been living in the same part of Rome as amore’s father, Monteverde, for a few decades.
When this bit came to light, their chitchat intensified and the hands got busier. I later asked amore if he would recognise her as a “romana” only from the way she spoke. He said, probably, but he would know that she was not Italian. I couldn’t spot any telltale traces myself.
She added that she was on a visit to her mother who lived in Ljubljana but wished to buy a house in Piran and move here. Yes, just what my parents did.
I looked at the dogs again. Roma didn’t need to say a thing. Just looking at her collar would suffice. She was definitely Italian. And bestia was sad to see her go.
As for Slovenians, how would we know which “o” sound to use when we say Roma? We call it “Rim”…
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