The Friday Fillip

In a stunningly inaccurate prediction, I announced to a friend a few years back that parasols would move into the mainstream here in Canada as we worried more and more about sun damage to our skin. As you may have noticed, it didn’t happen. Perhaps it may still, awaiting only some prominent person to champion the thing, in the way that Englishman Jonas Hanway in the mid 1800s popularized the use by men of umbrellas against the rain despite the taunts and ridicule he got for using a woman’s device.

Everyone’s doing it now, of course. And umbrella makers rejoice in that fact, I’m sure. (I suspect them, too, of somehow encouraging that particular form of forgetfulness that makes you leave your umbrella on the streetcar or in the taxi. I have no proof, though.) Which means that everyone is bound to like this article in The Paris Review about a remarkable colony of umbrella makers in northern Italy, who’ve been at it for centuries. But most fascinating of all, to me at least, is the strange fact that these ombrellai have developed their own language.

I don’t mean their own jargon. Jargons are a dime a dozen. Why, even law has one. No, this is a language called Tarùsc, that, so far as I can tell, bears some similarity to those “made up” languages like Esperanto, in that some words seem borrowed from this linguistic line and other from that. In Tarùsc, for example, potatoes are cartòful, no distance at all from the German kartoffel. Rundél is the world; and hands are grapèll. There’s a long list of words at the end of the piece; take a look and see if you can plumb their origins.

Sadly, the language is doomed, as is the practice of umbrella fabrication in Piedmont. Not so the brolly itself, though. So long as there’s rain, or, on the chance that there’s rain, we’ll carry an “en-tout-cas,” I predict. But wouldn’t it make sense to keep the bumbershoots open all year round, huh? Go on! You there in the prominenti, you could be the first to popularize the practice. Go down in history — and make a seer out of me.

Credit: A. Davey, Flickr


  1. I don’t know that you were so wrong about parasols: I have seen increasing numbers of women carrying umbrellas around in the sun this summer, and have wondered at what the tipping point would be to make this popular. It could very well still happen.