Lecciones de Italiano


Catching up with Un medico in famiglia

Here is a riassunto (synopsis) of what happened in the story of Un medico in famiglia from when we left off after episode 2 of season 1, to the time in which we are able to pick up the story with season 3. But to round things out, let’s start at the very beginning and fill you in.


The main character, or rather the most famous actor in the series, is Lino Banfi who is now 84 years old. He is il nonno (the grandpa). His son is Gabriele Martini, known as Lele (we will add this to the nickname list). He's a doctor, hence the title Un medico in famiglia (a doctor in the family). At the beginning of the show, we discover that Lele’s wife had died, leaving him 3 children: Maria who is 13, Ciccio (nickname for Francesco), 10, and a not quite 3-year old, Annuccia (affectionate name for Anna).


Before Lele’s wife Elena died, they had already closed on a new house in a residential town called Poggio Fiorito, near Rome.

Questa è la nostra casa vecchia. Adesso stiamo per andare in una casa nuova.

This is our old house. Now we are about to move to a new house.

Captions 30-31, Un medico in famiglia S1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 1

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Season 1


The story begins as the Martini Family packs up and moves to their new home. The kids are definitely not thrilled to leave their friends and old school behind. Il nonno, who has recently retired from his job with the ferrovia (railroad) moves in with them to help out.


Lele is gone all day and Nonno Libero can’t manage by himself, and it soon becomes clear that the family needs someone to help out at home, specifically, una colfColf is is an acronym for collaboratrice famigliare (family collaborator or housekeeper). 


Enter a “Polish” woman named Cettina. She is quite eccentric, but also a hard worker and manages to keep the household going, gradually becoming part of the family. She has a boyfriend, Giacinto, who is not very good at what he does, but he is a good guy. At the end of episode 2, the family, and we viewers discover that in fact, Cettina is not Polish at all, but Neapolitan. Once she has come out about this, things change for the better. She is still eccentric, but feels she can be herself. 


In the first and second seasons, Elena’s sister Alice is a constant presence in the household. She’s played by Claudia Pandolfi, well-known to Italian TV and film audiences. She is la zia (the aunt) to the young kids.


Also present are Elena’s parents, Enrica and Nicola. The kids clearly feel more at home with Nonno Libero.


Lele’s sister Nilde, played by popular Italian TV and movie actress, Anita Zagaria, is in a difficult marriage and her son Alberto, who is 16, goes to stay with the Martini family to benefit from their supposedly more harmonious home environment.


There’s drama at home, but there is also the daily drama at work, where Lele is head of the ASL, the local health center. ASL stands for Azienda Sanitaria Locale.


There are various characters within the walls of Lele’s workplace, notably his colleague Laura, hopelessly in love with him. Little by little, Lele realizes that the person who means the most to him, on a sentimental level, is Alice, his late wife’s sister. She, however, already has a boyfriend. His name is Sergio and he has been away for a while. When he comes back, Sergio and Alice get engaged. But at the bachelor party before the wedding, Sergio gets drunk and beats her. She calls off the wedding and leaves him. In the season finale, Lele declares his love for her.


Season 2


The second season opens with Lele waiting anxiously for Alice's return a trip she took to Africa. The two have to figure out if they want to commit, and they decide to share the news of their relationship with the family. Though Alice is jealous of Lele’s old flame, Clara, a photographer, their relationship grows. Of course, Alice is also hesitant about taking the place of her sister, Elena.


In the end, Lele and Alice decide to get married. About to leave on their honeymoon, Alice has a miscarriage and is told by the doctors that she will no longer be able to have children. Nilde, Lele’s sister, also gets pregnant, and while in Sanremo, gives birth to a mulatto child, a little boy, whose father is unknown to the Martini family. She names the child Lele Junior after her brother.


There is no lack of trouble at the Martini household: Alice is persecuted by a maniac admirer; Alberto falls into depression after a dramatic road accident where his dearest friend (Adriano) remains paralyzed; Cettina and Giacinto don’t get along like before.


Alberto comes out of his depression when he meets Gemma and the two become an item.


By the end of season 2, Alice, despite the earlier diagnosis, has become pregnant with Lele’s child. At the “wrong” moment, she finds herself stuck in an elevator, ready to give birth. Cettina and Maria have to help her give birth — to twins! This momentous experience brings Maria to an important decision she had been agonizing over: to study medicine and specialize in obstetrics.


This brings us to Season 3, available on Yabla. 3 years have passed since Season 2 and Maria is starting medical school, Lele has just left for a sabbatical in Australia to research a rare infantile disease, and has taken the twins with him. Alice will join him from Brazil. Nonno has his hands full with Nilde’s little boy, Lele Junior, and the other kids who all have their own problems. Let’s see what happens!

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What's up with Italian nicknames?

These days, even in Italy, you name your child however you choose. But at one time, in this historically Roman Catholic country, the names of saints were among the most popular ones. As a result, many children had the same name. By far the most popular names were Giuseppe (Joseph), Giovanni (John), Pietro, Piero (Peter), Paolo (Paul), Filiippo (Phillip), Marco (Mark), Matteo (Matthew), Domenico (Dominick), Antonio (Anthony), Leonardo (Leonard), Francesco (Francis), Maria (Mary), Giovanna (Jean, Joan), Paola (Paula), Anna (Anne), Elisabetta (Elisabeth), Simona (Simona), among others.


Note: You will find some little quiz questions throughout the lesson. Although each question refers to the video example preceding it, you might need information from further on in the lesson to answer it properly. So it would be wise read the entire lesson before trying to answer the quiz questions.


Abbreviating a name

We have seen in many Yabla videos that family and friends will use just the first syllable or two of the name, to make it easier and quicker to say, primarily when speaking directly to the person. The person's name is actually Martino. These are not nicknames, they're abbreviations.

Che stai facendo, Marti'?

What are you doing, Marti'?

Caption 50, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 6

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1) If, instead of abbreviating your friend's name, you wanted to give it an affectionate touch, what could you call Martino and what would you say?



The nickname can be longer than the given name

Nicknames are a bit different, and can be longer than the given name, so it's not just an expedient. It's common to use nicknames, partly to distinguish one Giovanni from another, but also to distinguish the size and stature of the person or some other characteristic. For these, suffixes are commonly used. 

If a boy or man named Paolo is a hefty guy, we might call him Paolone, using the accrescitivo (augmentative suffix). If he is kind of short or thin, or young, he might be called Paolino using the diminutivo ino/ina.

Invece la perfezione, caro Paolino, non esiste.

But perfection, dear Paolino, doesn't exist.

Caption 45, La Tempesta film - Part 17

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2) Maybe I don't know this guy very well, so I am not about to use a nickname. What would I say?


There is even a street called via San Paolino in the historical city of Lucca, so nicknaming this way is a pretty old tradition!

Poi arrivi fino a Piazza San Michele, continua con Via San Paolino e finisce in Piazzale Verdi. Quindi è una via unica che ovviamente cambia nome.

Then you get to Piazza San Michele, it continues with Via San Paolino, and it ends in Piazzale Verdi. So it's one street, which obviously changes its name.

Captions 50-52, In giro per l'Italia Lucca - Part 2

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Sometimes a nickname sticks and becomes the name someone goes by for their entire life. Simonetta is a common nickname for Simona, but it might also be a person's given name. Whoever gave her the name or nickname used the diminutivo (diminutive) suffix etto/etta to name her.

E comunque mi chiamo Simonetta. -Grazie, Simonetta. Sei proprio un'artista.

And anyway, my name is Simonetta. -Thank you, Simonetta. You really are an artist.

Captions 22-23, Il Commissario Manara S2EP3 - Delitto tra le lenzuola - Part 11

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3) Let's assume Simonetta is the name this woman has gone by her whole life, but I want to emphasize the fact that she is young and slender. We also need to assume I am on familiar terms with her. How could I thank her? 


How Italians introduce themselves

It's interesting to note that in Italian, people generally use the formula mi chiamo __________ (literally, "I call myself __________"), in conversation and introductions, rather than il mio nome è __________ (my name is __________). This gives them room to provide you with their nickname, not necessarily the name on their birth certificate.


In the following example from the story of Puccini's La Bohème, the main character introduces herself by using the nickname other people have given her, but she goes on to explain her real name.

Mi chiamano Mimì, ma il mio nome è Lucia.

They call me Mimi, but my name is Lucia.

Captions 1-2, Anna presenta La Bohème di Puccini - Part 1

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4) Let's say Mimì is saying that she calls herself Mimì, not that others call her that. What could she say?

5) How could we talk about her name, using a common formula?


Vezzeggiativi (affectionate terms)

And of course, in the mix of nicknames are what we call i nomi vezzeggiativi  — affectionate names for people. These affectionate names can also involve words that aren't strictly names (such as tesoruccia), but we'll get to these in another lesson.

In Un medico in famiglia, we have the little girl, Annuccia. Her real or given name will undoubtedly be Anna. Sometimes lengthening a name gives it prominence, makes it more audible, or warms it up. In Annuccia's case, her family uses the vezzeggiativo or affectionate suffix uccio/uccia to form her nickname. Since everyone calls her Annuccia, there's a fine line between calling a name a nickname or just someone's name. It's only going to matter on her carta d'identità (ID card) or other official documents.

E questa è Annuccia, la mia sorellina più piccola.

And this is Annuccia, my littlest little sister

Caption 34, Un medico in famiglia S1 EP1 - Casa nuova - Part 1

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In the popular Yabla series, Provaci Ancora Prof!, Camilla's young daughter, Livietta, was surely named Livia, but Livietta stuck. Who knows if they will keep calling her that when she grows up. 

Pronto? -Mamma? Senti, non è che potresti andare a prendere Livietta alla lezione di danza?

Hello. -Mom? Listen, you couldn't go to pick up Livietta from her dance lesson, could you?

Captions 1-2, Provaci Ancora Prof! S1E3 - Una piccola bestia ferita - Part 17

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Nicknames can change according to region

The name Giuseppe, a favorite, is interesting because, depending on the region, the nickname will be different. In Tuscany, the nickname for Giuseppe is Beppe

Beppe! Guardami. Me.

Beppe [nickname for Giuseppe]! Look at me. Me.

Caption 35, Telecom Italia Mobile Quando mamma chiama...Garibaldi risponde!

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We can take that nickname one step further and say Beppino, especially if the Beppe in question is not too tall.


Beppino is typical in Tuscany, but further south, Peppe or Peppino would be used. In this case the diminutive probably has nothing to do with the size of the guy. In the following example, Peppino's nickname is used, but is then abbreviated by his friend, who's calling him.

Peppino? Peppi'! Ao [Ehi]! Me [forza], muoviti. Scendi, Peppi'. Ti devo dire una cosa importante. Scendi.

Peppino? Peppi'! Hey! Come on, get moving. Come down, Peppi'. I have to tell you something important. Come down.

Captions 40-43, Chi m'ha visto film - Part 7

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Here is yet another nickname for Giuseppe, this time using an affectionate suffix on top of a nickname. In contrast to the above-mentioned Annuncia, the only name we have heard for the little girl in Medico in Famiglia, Peppuccio is probably a temporary (affectionate) nickname.

Ma'! -Peppuccio! Ho saputo che vai in Brasile, ma che ci vai a fare, la rivoluzione?

Mom! -Peppuccio [nickname of endearment for Giuseppe]! I heard that you're going to Brazil, but what are you going to do there, start a revolution?

Captions 4-5, Telecom Italia Mobile Quando mamma chiama...Garibaldi risponde!

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Especially in the south, the nickname for Giuseppe can take a more roundabout route. We take Giuseppe and make it a diminutive: Giuseppino. Then we just use the end of it and call someone Pino.

Pino Daniele, the famous singer-songwriter has always gone by the name Pino

Tu dimmi quando quando

You tell me when, when

Caption 9, Pino Daniele Quando

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We do the same for the feminine version, so a woman named Pina was almost surely christened as Giuseppina

Fun fact: Although the feminine version of Giuseppe does technically exist, and it would be Giuseppa, most of the time the feminine version is already a diminutive: Giuseppina.

Come si chiama questa nonna? -E allora... Come si chiama? -Giuseppina. Nonna Giuseppina. -Detta Pina. Detta Pina. -Sì.

What's this grandmother's name? -And so... What's her name? -Giuseppina. Grandma Giuseppina. -Nicknamed Pina. Nicknamed Pina. -Yes.

Captions 34-37, L'Eredità -Quiz TV La sfida dei sei. Puntata 3 - Part 15

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Another version of this, including the abbreviated one:

Pinu', be'? Ti sei ricordato? No. Pinuccio, stammi a sentire.

Pinu', well? Do you remember? No. Pinuccio, listen to me.

Captions 30-32, Sei mai stata sulla luna? film - Part 16

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We started out with Giuseppe, which can become Beppe, Beppino, PeppePeppino, or Pino.


6) If we wanted to use an affectionate form for Giuseppina, detta Pina, what could we call her?



How do we refer to a nickname?

Un soprannome in Italian is often a common noun turned into a name (which we'll discuss in another lesson). The nicknames we have been discussing here can be considered to be in the category of diminutives, augmentatives, or, as we mentioned, affectionate versions of names. But we can also use the formula as in the previous example. For example, we can say Giuseppe, detto Peppino (Giuseppe, called Peppino). 


Here are some common Italian names with their common nicknames. The list is partial as there are countless others.


Luigi (Louis) commonly becomes Gigi.

Filippo (Phlllip) can become Pippo.

Lorenzo (Lawrence) becomes Renzo or Enzo.

Mi chiamo Enzo, ho bisogno di lavorare.

My name is Enzo. I need a job.

Caption 52, Adriano Olivetti La forza di un sogno Ep. 1 - Part 10

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Vincenzo (Vincent) might also become Enzo.

Leonardo (Leonard) might become Leo or Dino.

Francesco (Francis) could become Franco or Ciccio.

Alessandro (Alexander) becomes Sandro.

Domenico (Dominick) can become Mimmo.

Giovanni can become Gianni.


7) How do we get from Leonardo to Dino?


Feast Day Names

Sometimes babies are named because they are born on a saint's day, or another special feast day. 


Annunziata might become Nunzia.

Natale might become Natalino.

Pasquale might become Pasqualino.


Here are some answers to the quiz questions above. There may be additional answers. If you have doubts, write to us!


1) Che stai facendo, Martinuccio?

2) Invece la perfezione, caro Paolo, non esiste.

3) Grazie, Simonettina. Sei proprio un'artista.

4) Mi chiamo Mimì, ma il mio vero nome è Lucia.

5) Si chiama Lucia, detta Mimì.

6) Pinuccia.

7) First we apply the diminutive suffix: Leonardino, then we take the last part and turn it into Dino.



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