Last week, #petaloso was one of the top trending topics in Italia. Just over a month ago, an 8 year old boy named Matteo in 3rd year elementary in Ferrara used the adjective ‘petaloso’ to describe a flower. His maestra (teacher) Margherita Aurora marked his assignment as incorrect, but she thought it was a beautiful word. ‘Un errore bello’ to be exact. So she said to Matteo ‘Chiediamolo alla Crusca’ (Let’s ask the Crusca).
L’Accademia della Crusca, literally ‘The Academy of the Bran’, is the oldest linguistic academy in the world. It was established in Firenze in the 16th Century to safeguard the study of the Italian language. They are notoriously purist-as they should be, and don’t like foreign words and anglicismi (Anglicisms). The name sounds kind of strange, but it refers to separating the wheat from the bran, or as we would say in English ‘separating the wheat from the chaff’.
Petaloso is the noun petalo (petal) with the suffix ‘oso‘. Petaloso means ‘full of petals’or ‘petalous’. Matteo and Margherita submitted the word for valutazione (evaluation) by ‘La Crusca’. I’ve been inventing Italian words by mistake my whole life and didn’t know this was possible! Most of my new adjectives are not appropriate for polite company so I don’t think La Crusca will be hearing from me! Valutazione is usually a long and arduous process, but they received an adorable response from La Crusca in 3 weeks.
‘È una parola ben formata e potrebbe essere usata in italiano come sono usate parole formato nello stesso modo come peloso e coraggioso’. (It is a well-formed word and could be used in Italian like we use words formed in the same way). The letter went on to say that new words don’t enter the vocabulary unless they are used and understood by lots of people in everyday conversation. For example, ‘le margherite sono fiori petalosi, mentre i papaveri non sono molto petalosi’ (Daisies are flowers full of petals, whereas poppies are not very petalous).
#petaloso was one of the top twitter tweets for Feb 23rd 2016, as everyone tried to help Matteo spread it around. Margherita’s response ‘per me vale come mille lezioni di italiano’ (for me this was worth a thousand lessons in Italian!’