America La Bella: Coca Cola and Me

I woke up this more and immediately searched outcome of the Superbowl. To be honest, I have absolutely no idea who the Seahawks are and I know as much about Peyton Manning as much as I do about Peyton Place.  I, like many of you, wanted to see if there were any clever ads.  Apparently Coca Cola's was too clever for a gang of monoglots.

When I was five, my favorite school song was America the Beautiful. I loved the mysterious images of  purple mountains, amber days in Spain and a fruit-filled airplane. My sister and I sang it all the time and everywhere, tailoring the chorus to us "...crowned thy good with sisterhood, from she to shining me."  We sang it where ever and whenever.  The melody captivated us and made us proud-- to be us, to be girls, to explore.

Roughly around that time, my nonno, who brought a young, non-English speaking family of four  to New York in the years following World War II, decided that my generation was 100% American. We spoke Italian only for fun and for business when bartering with the Napoletani butchers at Philadelphia's Italian Market.  Most of the time, I felt pretty much American, except on those single days when my elementary school showcased me as the "Italian" for the Italy Social Studies lesson. (I fit the stereotype- dark hair, dark eyes, olive skin, spoke with my hands and had a vowel at the end of my last name.) And on the days when my mom made trippa, abbacchio, calamari and anything else my apple-pie friends were too scared too eat.  Ironically, I told my class I wasn't really Italian, I was just Roman.  By a show of fists, the Spaventas and Colavitas politely disagreed with me, so I figured out pretty quickly that I was an English-speaking, Italian-smack-talking, Italian-American, or to my cousins Ital-Americana.  Most of the kids I grew up with lived also in a world of language mix and cultural reinterpretation/appropriation.  They had omas, abuelas, nonni and grannies, with lots of chutzpah and game.  Nobody came from just one place, even our Mayflower families, and they all spoke a little bit of something else, no matter how slang or grammatically incorrect.

So when I saw the Coca Cola ad, I was sheepishly proud.  Coke got it. Or better yet. It got us.  America is a pretty beautiful melting pot where language does not define our nationality, it (especially in the plural) enhances it.  For those snide commenters who don't seem to get the math (2+ languages are never "less than" but  always more) and constantly make poor grammar choices when soapboxing about America, I have one word: Basta.

PS> I thought of all of this was very funny after reading "Italian Food in Crisis?: Italians' Food and the Foreign Press"