When did English speakers start saying "gelato" rather than "gelati"?
November 29, 2017 5:01 AM   Subscribe

OK, one is the plural of the other, but as I recall shops were Frank's Gelati and people asked "Do you want to go for (some) gelati?" and now it's "Let's get gelato!" from Gelato Frank.

A time thing, a place thing or an influential business swapped and then others followed? I don't eat it (or ice cream) very often so it hadn't occurred to me until recently that things have changed.
posted by hawthorne to Food & Drink (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
 
They did?

Gelati comes from the gelati truck.
posted by pompomtom at 5:29 AM on November 29, 2017


I've never heard "gelati" used, but maybe it's a regional thing?
posted by The Underpants Monster at 5:42 AM on November 29, 2017 [7 favorites]


In the UK, I've only ever heard it called gelato. Maybe gelati very occasionally if there are multiple flavours and the person in question knows how Italian plurals work and wants to show that fact off, but in general it's gelato.
posted by terretu at 5:58 AM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


I've only ever heard gelato in the UK too. I didn't know what it was when I was in the US.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 6:01 AM on November 29, 2017


Grew up among Italian-American communities in NJ. Have only ever heard “gelato.”

Of course, going for “some gelati” is just a different usage from “a gelato.” Perhaps it’s just whether people personally choose to use the plural or not.
posted by Miko at 6:02 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Here in Philly, people still refer to it as gelati, but that’s mostly among the old-school South Philly Italian folks. It’s also worth noting that “gelati” is an item on Ritas’s Water Ice menu, so it’s not uncommon to hear, “Can I have a gelati?”

(NB: the substance known as gelati bears little resemblance to actual gelato, being more of a cold, vanilla-flavored Crisco.)
posted by coppermoss at 6:12 AM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Well, one of the most popular items on Rita's menu is Gelati, which really has nothing at all to do with gelato but Rita's is pretty big, and thus may have had some influence. For reference, a Rita's Gelati is a tall cup filled with alternating layers of Italian ice and frozen custard.
posted by rachaelfaith at 6:13 AM on November 29, 2017


Google ngram viewer (books, 1800-2000)
Google Trends (World over time)
Google Trends (US by region)

Judging by the region data, gelati usage is particularly strong in Virginia.
posted by zamboni at 6:25 AM on November 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


South Philly checking in here too. I've never heard "gelati" outside of water ice stands, and as noted, it's a completely different thing not containing gelato at all.

Our native gelato chain (at one point apparently the best ice cream in the world? interesting) uses the Englishized plural "gelatos".
posted by supercres at 7:11 AM on November 29, 2017


You don't say "I'd like some ice creams," why would you say "I'd like some gelati?" (Outside of that specific menu item.)
posted by praemunire at 8:40 AM on November 29, 2017


NJ/NYC here, and a couple weeks in Castellina in Chianti patronizing L’ Antica Delizia (which seems to have both moved and changed its name to Gelateria di Castellina since I was there), and I've never heard the word "gelati" before today.
posted by Devoidoid at 8:50 AM on November 29, 2017


I'm not sure if it's just English speakers. When traveling in Italy a few years ago, we hit Florence during the International Gelato Festival , which was awesome.

We were walking around and came upon a bunch of booths selling gelato. I said, "what is this, some kind of International Gelato Festival?" It absolutely was.

posted by ActingTheGoat at 11:10 AM on November 29, 2017 [4 favorites]


You don't say "I'd like some ice creams," why would you say "I'd like some gelati?"

Your example is not a good one, as ice cream is a collective noun. "I'm going to buy some ice cream" could mean a cone, or ten pints.
posted by Dolley at 12:05 PM on November 29, 2017


In general, both English speakers' and native Italian speakers' relationship to Italian's conventions are all over the place. That said, even seeing "gelatos" typed out makes me mad.

Also, "ice cream" might be a collective noun in English, but that lack of claraity doesn't exist in Italian. In fact, this exact issue comes up in Dad joke form every time my family drives by a hair place in our town called Salon Capello, where capello translates to a single hair.
posted by NoRelationToLea at 12:48 PM on November 29, 2017 [2 favorites]


I suspect this usage of "gelati" is a regional thing that has been replaced by the more widespread "gelato" - I've only ever said gelato/gelateria (but I also did not grow up with gelato - probably only had it once or twice pre-2000). I'm from the Northeastern US, Boston area, also lived in Virginia.

Your example is not a good one, as ice cream is a collective noun. "I'm going to buy some ice cream" could mean a cone, or ten pints.

I think you mean a non-count noun, but regardless, in English you can definitely say "a cup of gelato" just as correctly as you can say "a cup of ice cream." In Italian, too, I think.

This usage of the plural as a singular happens a lot with Polish vocab in English - I can eat "a pierogi" or buy "a dozen paczki(s)," and I would basically never say "a pierog" or "a paczek."
posted by mskyle at 12:55 PM on November 29, 2017 [1 favorite]


Thanks everyone. All helpful but still a bit of a puzzle - if there is a cause. It looks like the google trend for Australia (I'm in Melbourne) is pretty even in 2004 and I'm certainly thinking of back at least to the 80s.
posted by hawthorne at 8:37 PM on November 30, 2017


Yeah, sorry, I checked your profile. As a Melbournian, I've never heard 'gelato' - so perhaps it's more creeping Americanism?
posted by pompomtom at 10:32 PM on November 30, 2017


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