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Word of the Day: Sosia

Poster from the movie, Dave.

Never again will I have to describe the premise of the 1993 film Dave without knowing how to say ‘lookalike’ in Italian. Why is that? Because I was talking about the movie this morning to my Italian breakfast mate, describing that Kevin Kline plays a man called Dave, a lookalike of the film’s president of the United States, (also played by Mr. Kline, obviously). When the president has a heart attack and falls into a coma, the president’s lookalike, Dave, takes over for him as POTUS. Hilarity ensues. But I digress, so let’s get back to the Word of the Day:

Sosia is the Italian noun (m + f) for lookalike, alter ego, doppelgänger, spitting imagine, substitute, or double. Whether you are referring to a man who is the lookalike, or a woman, the noun stays the same, with the ‘a’ ending: sosia. Do not confuse this word with gemello, which is the Italian noun for twin: twin as in siblings, fraternal or identical twins.

The etymology of this word is pretty interesting, so brace yourselves for a burst of culture!! Sosia comes from the play (originally written by Sophocles), Amphitryon, reworked by the Roman comedian, Plautus. In a nutshell, Jupiter is sleeping with the wife of Amphitryon, who is away at war: shenanigans that Jupiter always gets himself into. Amphitryon has a slave called Sosia. The wife of this poor guy doesn’t realize that she is committing adultery, because Jupiter has taken on the form of her husband. (Sneaky sneaky!) Anyways, to further convince this woman that her husband is indeed the one she is bedding, Jupiter asks his son Mercury to take the form of Amphitryon’s slave, Sosia: to show that everyone is back home from war.

So there you have it, Sosia becoming known as someone with a lookalike, and in turn, the word for a substitute, or double in Italian.

Example:
Maria: ‘Senti Giovanna, ieri sera ho visto il tuo ragazzo, baciando un’altra donna.’ – Listen, Giovanna, last night I saw your boyfriend kissing another woman.
Giovanna: ‘Allora deve essere stato il suo sosia, perchè Ermenegildo è stato con me tutta la notte.’ – Then it must have been his lookalike, because Ermenegildo was with me all night.’

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