Giulio is almost three. He has come to the age of questions and everything needs to be understood. In English, its why. In Italian, it’s perché. I like when kids ask questions. I like explaining things. The trouble is, there isn’t a word for because in Italian. It’s just perché again. For people fluent in the language, aka only mother-tongue adults, this makes sense, but for the rest of us, it’s confusing as hell. Having one word for very different meanings happens in English too, but this one with a human that hasn’t even gone three trips around the sun is a toughie and it comes up every five minutes.
“Giulio, we have to get on the bus but not that one, we have to wait five minutes for the right one.”
“Perché this isn’t the right bus and ours will be here in five minutes.”
“Perché this bus goes somewhere else and not to my house, and the one that goes by my house isn’t here yet.”
“Perché that’s how busses work.”
“Perché do you think that is?” I turn the question back on him, but still with the same word, and I wonder if either of us really knows if we’re saying why or because anymore, the question or an explanation. We’re just slinging that word around because (perché) we know it’s used here somehow, apparently. Sometimes I feel like he thinks I’m just asking him a million questions back instead of answering anything, but then I do that too, on purpose. Of course, this one word is all he knows, so it makes more sense to him than me. But now I’ve been throwing “because” in the conversation to switch things up.
Normally, I think Engish lacks enough words for the world and Italian usually picks up the slack with beautiful words for everything – even more than one word for “love.” But with this one, English wins, because “because” is important and it’s a hell of a lot easier to understand when talking to a toddler.