When I first lived in the UK, I was puzzled as to what "rocket" was. Then I ate it, and said, "Oh, arugula! We must use the Italian word for the vegetable."

But here, I found that, when I ordered "rucola," I got... arugula! So I asked one of my instructors here about this. Her explanation:

In the Neopolitan dialect, the "l" is dropped in phrases like "la rucola," so that it becomes "a rucola." Then, three more things happen: c's often shift to g's, o's become u's (which is why Italian Americans often say "mUzarell" for the cheese -- why they drop the 'a' on the end remains a mystery to me), and the immigrants to America in the great wave of Italian immigration were largely illiterate, so that they did not even realize they were saying two words ("a rucola") and, presto: "arugula"!


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