In this chapter of the series “Italianisms in the World“, Francesca Cupelloni from Sapienza University of Rome sheds light on linguistic curiosities, distortions of words, and even the creation of new words that are Italian only in appearance, aiming to evoke abroad the unique flavours of the national cuisine.
Italy boasts a rich gastronomic diversity with numerous agri-food products holding recognized geographical indications in the European community. Each of these products has a unique story tied to culture and tradition, waiting to be explored. Italian food and products, globally cherished, often face imitation through “Italian sounding,” using images and references that evoke the country.
Panettone, a prominent sweet in Italian cuisine, has its origins in the Milanese “panattón.” It’s an augmentative form of “pan” (bread) or “panett” (small bread with lots of yeast), symbolizing a grand celebration like Christmas. The term’s connection to Christmas dates back to the sixteenth century, described as “panaton de danedà” or “big bread made on Christmas day.”
The evolution of panettone includes the addition of raisins, candied fruits, and a characteristic mold for its dome shape. The sweet’s transformation from a flat round shape to the iconic dome took place in the 1920s, establishing the “panettone-Duomo” pairing in advertising.
Despite industrial production mentioned by Artusi in 1911, panettone’s widespread distribution began around 112 years ago. Its global popularity led to attempts at linguistic appropriation, as seen in the Brazilian “pascoattone,” a pseudo-Italianism blending Pasqua (Easter) and panettone, overlooking the rich historical and dialectal roots of the term.