Daily Archives: October 2, 2010

panini, Paganini, pagan

“And I’ll have the panino with ham and cheese,” Jess said, handing her menu to the waitress.

“Ham and cheese panini,” the waitress said, writing. She took the menu – “Thank you” – and headed off to the kitchen.

“If I’d wanted more than one,” Jess said sotto voce, eyebrow half-raised in half-amusement, “I would have said so.”

“Well, she doesn’t speak Italian,” Daryl pointed out unnecessarily.

“Just as well,” I said. “If she were Italian, she might have thought you wanted a little bun, rather than a grilled sandwich.”

“True!” said Jess. “Pane, bread; panino, little bread. The name of the bread transfers to the name of the sandwich… Didn’t you do one of your notes on another such?”

Muffuletta,” I said.

“Don’t speak with your mouth full,” Daryl japed.

“The waitress probably thought you were being capricious,” I said.

“Well, if I’d asked for Panini,” Jess said, “I would have been requesting the founder of Sanskrit grammar and the forerunner of linguistics.”

“Only you would have had to say it with a lengthened and stressed first vowel and a retroflex first n.” I demonstrated.

“Then she might have thought I was possessed,” Jess said.

“You say panini, I say Paanini,” Daryl half-sang. “Actually, I’d rather have Paganini.”

Jess turned and looked at him. “Speaking of capricious! I thought you preferred heavy metal.”

“I’m not narrow, you know. Anyway, Niccolò Paganini has had an important influence on metal music.”

“Because he was pretty much the first real violin solo superstar and helped shift the focus from bowing to fast fingerwork and technical pyrotechnics? Thereby setting the stage for the very similar phenomenon in metal?”

“Yup, that’s surely part of it,” Daryl said. “And his music in specific has been quite popular among some of the metal guitar gods.” He was flipping through some files on his iPhone as he spoke. “Here we go. Yngwie Malmsteen – big fan of Paganini and one of the greatest gutarists of all time, including future times.”

“Not a fan of moderation, are you?” Jess said. “Actually, I’ll moderate that. You seem normal enough when you’re not talking about stuff like this.”

“Look, here, have a listen, he uses Paganini’s Caprice number 24 as the solo in ‘Prophet of Doom.’”

Jess held up her hand. “Email me a link. …‘Prophet of Doom’? Do you suppose Paganini would be flattered?”

“I think that Paganini would have been a metal guitar god if he’d been living today,” Daryl said. “Anyway, he lived a wild life and, just like some metal musicians, he was accused of having sold his soul to the devil – or even of being possessed.”

“Well,” I said, “he was, in a way, a little bit of a pagan.”

“He wasn’t a pagan, ninny,” Daryl said. “The Church just wouldn’t let him be buried properly because he died before he could have last rites.”

“It’s just that Paganini and pagan are, the evidence suggests, related,” I said. “Paganini is a family name formed on a genitive of Paganino, which is a diminutive of Pagano.”

“Just like panino is a diminutive of pane,” Jess said. “A little bread, a little pagan.”

“But his forebears may not have been declared heathens,” I said. “They could have just been villagers or country folk. Latin pagus meant ‘village’ or ‘country district’, and so pagano means someone from the country. Which was of course that heathen area, away from the enlightened, Christianized towns, hence the developed sense of pagan.”

“Anyway,” Daryl said, “the point is that he played a little role in the development of metal music. Sort of like Panini did for linguistics.”

“He played a little roll?” Jess said. “I thought it was a violin. Now you’re telling me he was fiddling with a panino.”

Just then the waitress passed back by. “Your sandwiches and panini will be ready in a couple of minutes,” she said. “Can I get you anything else while you’re waiting?”

Jess made a mischievous smile. “I’d like a martino, please…”