So…is it Yes or No?

charming Positano on Amalfi Coast


so… is it Si or No?

Years ago during a wonderful visit of my mother from California, we were excitedly planning a trip to the Amalfi Coast. It was Mother’s first time to places she had often dreamed about:  Sorrento, Capri, Amalfi, Ravello, Positanto.  Her anticipation was palpable!  Until the last minute our trip was uncertain due to my husband’s difficulty in getting away from work. Mother, SO excited and hopeful about the trip, anxiously asked Maurizio when he returned for lunch: “So,  can we go?  Are we leaving this afternoon, can we stay for several days?”. To each of her can’t wait-for-the-answer questions, Maurizio responded in the very common Italian way, saying, “Si – no?”. Frustrated after hearing repeatedly this “Si – no?” she turned to me and with annoyed exasperation asked me: “Mary, are we going or not? So is it Yes or No?”

Using the inflected word “no” to confirm the “si” made no sense to her!  
In the fast exchange of Italian dialogue, the only words which stood out, which registered with her, were “Si – no?”. Naturally she didn’t catch the inflected voice, a nuance which took years for her to discern so she was absolutely clueless whether the answer was yes or no!

amazing Positano

the amazing, mesmerizing pastels of Positano

Every time I hear this response to a question or use this inflected voice “Si – no?” as my own answer to a question, I think of my mother’s utter confusion AND of the strangeness of this linguistic usage. Over the years other English speaking guests have noticed and been confused by this “Yes, no?”.

gorgeous Ravello

gorgeous Villa Cimbrone a Ravello

dreamy evening light on Positano

the dream-like quality of early evening light on the sea and Positano from Hotel San Pietro

a loving acknowledgment and thanks to my daughter, Mar, for these magnificent photos.  



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