Waugh and the Italian Ham

The internet site of a translation service has posted a brief article on the derivation of the word prosciutto as their word of the day for 14 October. In English, it has come to mean Italian ham, but in Italian, it is much more complicated:

In Italian, the word derived from the Latin prefix pro, meaning “before,” and the verb exsuctus, which means “to suck the moisture out.” So, while the word defines a product when used in English, it describes the process (aka dry-curing) of making the product in Italian. There are 3 basic types of prosciutto: smoked, which is called affumicato, and the other 2 depend on whether or not the ham is served cooked (cotto) or uncooked (crudo).

The article concludes with a quote from Waugh:

Finally, perhaps painting an elegant and romanticised usage of our ham, Evelyn Waugh tempts us with “Melon and prosciutto on the balcony” in his 1945 classic, Brideshead Revisited.

The bloggers might have made a bit more of this reference if they had noticed that in the first U.K. edition (May 1945, p. 90), the word (which is, after all, a bit of a spelling challenge for English speakers) was misspelled. It appears in a long list of Charles Ryder’s memories of the visit to Lord Marchmain in Venice (Book 1, Chapter 4): “…of melon and prosciuto [sic] on the balcony in the cool of the morning.” The U.S. editors caught the error and italicized the correct spelling in the first U.S. trade edition (January 1946, p. 101).

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