il lungagnone

theartichoke

Senior Member
English - Canada
Hi all,

Getting started on an historical novel with a WWII setting, I'm puzzling over the best translation for "il lungagnone." A German officer, "basso e robusto," and an Italian fascist, "alto e magro," are described as follows: Così evidenziati com'erano nei tratti fisici, i due sembravano attori di teatro impegnati sul palcoscenico. Due maschere cattive: il grasso e il lungagnone, infilate nei costumi di una stessa tragedia.

Assuming "due maschere" means "two stock characters" (which makes more sense than "two masks"), my first thought was to translate lungagnone as "string bean" and have something like two stage villains: the fat man and the string bean.... However, the fascist goes on to do some pretty unpleasant things over the next few pages--while still being called il lungagnone by the narrator--and "string bean" has a slightly comical air to it that starts to feel out of place in lines like "non deve più succedere" disse il lugagnone...."mai più, o avrai a pentiretene"

So my question is whether il lungagnone has the same familiar, slightly comic sound as "string bean" does in English, and if not, whether it makes you think more of a tall man or a thin man. Calling him "the tall, thin man" throughout is possible, but a bit cumbersome. "Il grasso" is never mentioned again, otherwise "the thin man" would be the obvious choice.
 
  • theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    "Beanpole" may well have been the expression my mind was looking for when it came up with "string bean" (they're both used, but "beanpole" is probably more common). But it doesn't solve my problem, because "beanpole" for a tall, thin person has exactly the same, slightly comic register to it as "string bean"! Does lungagnone?
     

    Starless74

    Senior Member
    Italiano
    "beanpole" for a tall, thin person has exactly the same, slightly comic register to it as "string bean"! Does lungagnone?
    I think lungagnone does. Italian literature has a tradition of novels where the slightly comic register is used in an otherwise dramatic context (as WWII certainly is). The author is making fun of the two characters he's certainly not very fond of. "Gangly" or "lanky" came to mind.
     

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    I think lungagnone does. Italian literature has a tradition of novels where the slightly comic register is used in an otherwise dramatic context (as WWII certainly is). The author is making fun of the two characters he's certainly not very fond of.
    Thanks, Starless--that's what I needed to know: I suspected lugagnone had at least a bit of that nuance to it, but wasn't sure. In this case, I think I'm going to go with Benzene's first suggestion of "beanpole," which is marginally less comic than "string bean." "Longshanks" is pretty uncommon in modern English (it makes me think of medieval kings), and I'd rather use a noun, like the original does, than adjective + man.
     

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    "The stretch?" Or just "stretch," like a nickname? I think I've heard the latter before, but it's uncommon in my part of the world.
     

    stez

    Senior Member
    english - australia
    It’s a common enough term here, without the definite article. I think, given the grimness of the context, the fewer comic nuances the better - and definitely a term without the need for articles or adjective+noun.

    Extrapolating from Mary’s ‘Longshanks’, and keeping the long/lungo relationship, what about Long+name - Long John?
     
    Last edited:

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    It’s a common enough term here, without the definite article. I think, given the grimness of the context, the fewer comic nuances the better
    As Starless pointed out, though, the original "lungagnone" does have a slight comic nuance, and the comic nuance of "beanpole," a very common term for a tall, thin person--in Canadian English, at least--is also fairly slight. It would be funnier, to me, to call someone "Stretch" (and long johns are winter underwear). It's always interesting how colloquialisms like this translate differently in different forms of English. :)
     
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