Rashi spoke Italian, too?

While explaining the word מחשים in I Kings 22:3, Rashi uses the Hebrew for “we are being lazy,” then uses a non-Hebrew colloquial term for further clarification to the reader. Here, he uses the phrase סיאמ”ו פיגר”י. Usually Rashi used a French idiom, but the word סיאמ”ו converts phonetically roughly to “siamo,” a decidedly non-French sounding word. The second term I phonetically converted roughly to “figre,” which looked like it could resemble a French word.

On to Google Translate. I set it to “detect language,” and typed in “siamo.” It returned “we are” in Italian! “We are” is exactly what I hoped for, but since when does Rashi use Italian words?

On to “figre.” This did not yield anything that made sense. So I decided to try “lazy” in English, matching the Hebrew term Rashi used, and translate it to French. Of the words returned by Google, the closest match was “feignant,” meaning “idle.” Not bad. But I was not satisfied. So I put “feignant” back into Translate, and translated it into Italian. What came back? “Pigrone”!  This apparently means “lazybones” in Italian. When I entered “pigre” or “pigri” into Translate, and translated it to English, it comes back as “lazy,” the exact term I was looking for, and this Italian word is once again an exact phonetic match to the one Rashi uses.

Just to be thorough, I ran the full phrase “we are lazy” through Translate and got “siamo pigri,” Rashi’s exact words!

But this leaves me with a different mystery. Why was Rashi, the French commentator, writing in Italian?


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