I was reading an Italian short story the other day (in an edition with English translations on the right-hand page) when I saw an interesting word: la persiana.
I knew it must be related to Persian, but I couldn’t figure out what it could mean in the context. So I had a peek at the English page, and saw it was translated as Venetian blinds (though it’s generally used more to refer to shutters).
Ah, I thought, I should have known Venetian blinds probably have nothing to do with Venice! Knowing how English works, the association with Venice is probably a case of mistaken identity, or the result of a long game of linguistic Chinese whispers.
No-one knows exactly where Venetian blinds came from, but Persia is a likely candidate (they’re also known as les persiennes in French). They were brought back to Europe to be sold by Venetian traders, and in English at least the association with Venice stuck. It reminds me a lot of the word turkey.
Of course, in another way, the blind part is interesting. Obviously it’s the same sense as in lacking the sense of sight. And it occurred to me that that probably wouldn’t fly if blinds were invented today. Imagine:
-I’ve just invented these things to cover a window and keep some light out!
-Cool, what do you call them?
-Yeah, blinds! Cos it’s like you’re blind!!
-Isn’t that a bit tonedeaf?
-Excuse me!? ToneWHAT!!?
7 thoughts on “Venetian Blinds”
There’s a very old joke which isn’t very funny and possibly promotes violence against the innocent:
How do you make a Venetian blind?
Poke his eyeballs out.
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So, they should be called Iranian visually-impaireds then?
I’m still trying to figure out what the difference is between a regular shutter and a California shutter…
I did not know there were such things.
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Una persiana si chiama pure tapparella, no? They do in the South at least, anyway. You operate it by pulling on a cord which winds up or lets out from a spring mechanism in the wall. Occasionally you have to replace the plastic slats or replace the whole thing with its more modern aluminium equivalent.
That’s if you’re not snobby, with timber venetians that mark you out as on a different level.
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