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August 4, 2011 9:57 AM   Subscribe

ItalianFilter: Please help me translate the WWII-era letter for a friend of the family.

A friend of the family was stationed in Italy at the end of WWII. Like many American GIs, he shared his provisions and care packages from home with the local families, as at that time, food and supplies were scarce. After returning to the States, he received a letter from a family thanking him for his help and updating him on their situation. As he couldn't read Italian, he set the letter aside and didn't think of it much in the intervening 66 years. When he found out that I had studied Italian in college, he asked me to translate it for him.

Most of the letter was straightforward and easy to translate, but one (long) sentence in particular has left me totally stumped. The combination of old-timey handwriting and slightly unusual phrasing has left me grasping at straws and I am hoping that AskMe can help out. I would post a photo of the letter itself (I have a copy), but I have marked up my version and I'm not sure it will be helpful.

Here is the sentence:

(La Licio?) sempre vi fa in mente e dice sempre che Davis era buono e (da/fa/di ?) in (trista/tresta/trita??) il suo carro armato e anche la cioccolata e la gommo che voi li davate.

The first two words look like "La Licior", which I thought was the name of the town, but that is not the case. The two capital letters look like "L's" but, honestly they could be almost anything. There is definitely an "ici" in the middle of the word, but the end could be "o" or "or" or "a." Hard to tell.

The "trista/tresta/trito" word is hard to read. Definitely starts with a t, and ends with "ta".

Davis is his name.

If it helps, the letter is from a town near Trieste, and was written before Christmas, 1945.

Grazie mille!
posted by artichoke_enthusiast to Writing & Language (10 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I think they're just saying something like they'll never forget how Davis arrived in his armored car/tank and shared chocolate and gum with them. La Licio may be the name of someone.
posted by mareli at 10:07 AM on August 4, 2011

Could it be 'la liceo' meaning the high school?
posted by bq at 10:18 AM on August 4, 2011

La Licio would have to be a name, I would guess the nickname of a child, since it has the definite article.

The t word would be testa. Avere in testa is literally to have in one's head, which I suppose could be to picture in this instance.

So I would suggest something like this:

"La Licio always thinks of you and always says how good Davis was and still pictures his armoured truck and also the chocolate and gum that you gave him."
posted by Dragonness at 10:32 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: The first could be a female name, Licia, as it's common in colloquial Italian (in many regions) to use the definite article. There may be parts of the country that use the article with a male name, but that's an unfamiliar usage to me.
I agree that the other fuzzy part of the sentence is probably "ha in testa."

Given the context, I would also agree that Licia (or whoever) is probably a child. The last part of the sentence is likely to be plural, as the chocolate and gum was probably handed out to all the children, so it would be "...that you gave them."
posted by Superplin at 10:51 AM on August 4, 2011

Good catch on the plural, Superplin. Missed that.
posted by Dragonness at 10:55 AM on August 4, 2011

By the way, that would be gomma not gommo. The Italian handwritten a, at least in contemporary Italian, is very round, and could easily be mistaken for an o. This would be consistent with Superplin's thought that the name is Licia, not Licio.
posted by Dragonness at 10:58 AM on August 4, 2011

Yeah, the a and o are hard to tell apart in most Italian handwriting I've seen. As are lower-case h and d, which also explains the confusion over that middle bit.
posted by Superplin at 11:03 AM on August 4, 2011

Response by poster: I definitely think that you are right about the "La Licia/Licior" bit, Superpin. And it definitely could be "ha in mente" not "fa in mente." Now, the only bit that's still confusing me is the "??? in triste" bit. The first word looks like it could be da/di/fa or almost any other short word (it is really hard to tell). I'm pretty sure that it has to be "in triste" which might mean "sadly", but I'm not sure what Davis was doing "sadly."

Thanks everyone for the suggestions, I think it's 99% there.
posted by artichoke_enthusiast at 11:05 AM on August 4, 2011

Best answer: I think the part you're confused about would be, as Dragonness suggested, "ha in testa," meaning she remembers or spends a lot of time thinking about the tanks, etc.
posted by Superplin at 11:13 AM on August 4, 2011

Response by poster: Yes! You are of course right and I was confused. I think it's all done now!

Thanks everyone!
posted by artichoke_enthusiast at 11:15 AM on August 4, 2011

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