Wednesday word: le alici

Alice is a beautiful name in English, and can also be a beautiful name in Italian…a beautiful name for a fish, that is. The singular feminine noun l’alice, pronounced ah-LEE-chay, means anchovy. Its plural form is le alici.

L’acciuga (pronounced ahch-CHEW-gah) is another word for anchovy. In terms of the species of fish that the word refers to, there’s no difference between alice and acciuga.

In the past, alice was more frequently used in Southern Italy, while acciuga was more common further North. Today, however, both terms are ubiquitous throughout Italy.

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pop quiz: le acciughe or le alici?

The word alice is rooted in the Latin allec, a term used to describe a type of fish sauce not unlike garum.

Online sources state that in Liguria, where they catch a lot of anchovies and call them acciughe, the fish has a nickname: pane del mare, bread of the sea, given its high nutrition content and important role in regional cuisine. All pescatori [fishermen] and pescivendoli [fishmongers] interviewed for this post stated, however, that they have never called or heard anyone else refer to anchovies with the poetic nickname of pane del mare. So hopefully having only two name options – alice and acciuga – for this fish is good enough for you.

If this is the kind of learning you like to do, pick up a copy of Italian Through Food!

© 2017

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