Daily Archives: May 23, 2009


Here’s a word with a flavour like tagliatelle aglio e olio, perhaps to be eaten in the midst of an imbroglio in a seraglio while listening to Natalie Imbruglia. Ah, the great Italian gli! You may say it with glee, but don’t say it like “glee.” The closest we can come in English phonotactics is to ditch the g and say it like “lee,” but actually the l is palatalized, producing a movement of the tongue rather like one you might make while trying to free it from an excess of almond butter. But while the movement is a slinky sliding, the sense is cutting: intagliare means “cut” or “engrave,” and comes from the late Latin verb taleare, “cut” – also the source of tailor and, yes, tagliatelle (which names a noodle rather like linguine, but wider). In carving terms, intaglio is the opposite of relief – I don’t mean it’s more work, I just mean that it’s concave rather than convex. If you find it a lingo requiring extra effort, let me assure you that you will get gain with your toil. You very likely have examples of intaglio in your own abode. Go to your medicine cabinet and pull out the pills. If they’re the uncoated kind, made with lots of hydroxypropylmethylcellulose as inert filler, they probably have the company logo and indication of active ingredient intagliated (that’s the past participle of the verb form).