“They gave the women no credit where credit was adieu.”

This is one of the strangest Horrors I’ve ever gotten. How in the world can “adieu” have gotten in there?

My mother used to like to recite a comic poem you won’t hear nowadays, alas, because of the Italian stereotype….But you can still find it online: “Giuseppe the Barber”—or, as I’ve just learned by looking for a copy to link to, “Mia Carlotta.”  It’s a great recitation piece, and a good example of that once-thriving form, dialect humor. If you can put your enlightened attitude about ethnic and linguistic respect aside for a moment, give it a try. Come on, nobody’s here but us polli.

Anyway, Giuseppe might have written my student’s Horror, because he habitually converts the unstressed final vowel sound typical of Italian into an “a” that he attaches to English words. True, he attaches it at the end of the word, appropriately enough for the language conversion he’s attempting; but letters on the ends of words migrate to the beginnings of adjacent words more easily than Giuseppe could board a ship: witness English words like a nuncle/an uncle and an ewt/a newt. So let’s assume a wandering “a” for Giuseppe when he encounters the phrase “credit where credit is due.” Voilà. Or should I say Ecco.

But my student was not trying to translate from one language to another, although he managed to do so anyway. Why not “no credit where credit was ado,” if he felt the need for an “a”? Maybe he had never seen the word “ado.” What a shame, if so. It would make an interesting comment. Certainly when I was house-hunting, I experienced Much Ado About Credit. I’m not sure credit itself was ado, although later, running up to 2008, this might be exactly what we can say happened. At least for the mortgage-slice-and-dicers and the credit-card-sharks, credit was ado. Or maybe it was amok.

Thinking Back to The Day, I confess my student may have been accidentally onto something. One of the big issues in the Women’s Liberation Movement II was the difficulty women, particularly unmarried women, had getting credit. For them, credit was adieu, in a sense: A lady walks into a bank and says, “I want to get a loan.” Banker says, “Adieu, lady.” (Yes, oh sharp of ear, I was channeling Greta Garbo there for a minute.) This experience was shared by American blacks, and other ethnic or socioeconomic groups I’m sure. Thanks to the Civil Rights Movement, the Women’s Movement, and a somewhat reasonable Congress (ah, those were The Days!), those barriers were removed, for the most part.

Of course nowadays credit is adieu for us all, or for 99% of us, bringing a new meaning to the term “equality.”

Okay, back to grading. Warning: I have a lot to say about dialect humor, and I will say it one of these days. Meanwhile, if you haven’t looked at “Mia Carlotta,” go and do that. Enjoy all the fondly-reminiscing comments, too (including the two confused ones that identify the poem’s speaker as Spanish and “negro”!).

Don't you wish YOU gotta?

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

2 responses to ““They gave the women no credit where credit was adieu.”

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