'O purtuallo: why do the Neapolitans call orange like this?

by Federico Quagliuolo

In Neapolitan the orange is called purtuallo. This is a peculiarity that distinguishes the southern languages from the rest of Italy.

The legends and stories around oranges are endless to say the least: come on Magic powers and aphrodisiacs attributed to orange blossom to the hundred thousand beneficial properties of its peel, up to orange juice, recommended in every diet: 'o purtuallo is a proud representative of the extremely fertile lands of Southern Italy.
Garibaldi he was crazy about it and in fact it is said that, arrived in Palermo in 1860, ordered his soldiers to go to the Sicilian orange groves to stock up on citrus fruits.

Idioms in Neapolitan related to purtuallo

Yet, precisely in the Neapolitan language, the blood oranges of Palermo are present only in more cruel and negative ways of speaking:
say that "I know 'arrive' and purtualle 'and Palermo“, In fact, it indicates the arrival of bad grades in the school report card.
Even worse is the "Yes and horns were purtualle, 'a capa toja were Palermo!", Which refers tohuge production of Sicilian oranges which obviously enriched the markets of the island capital.
And finally, the very famous exclamation "smo all purtualle“, Said come on gentlemen when they were in the presence of peasants who boasted of their high-ranking acquaintances.
According to the legend, in fact, from a ship coming from Palermo a crate of oranges fell in front of the drain of a sewer. The oranges then found themselves floating together with the excrements that, happy with such a "noble" company, shouted "Guagliù, simm 'tutti purtualle!"

In short, despite the delicious flavor and the brotherhood between Naples and Sicily, popular culture has never reserved flattering expressions for oranges!

Arancia purtuallo arance

The origins

Onorigin of the word purtuallo, on the other hand, the Neapolitan language demonstrates all its internationality: they are three languages who claim to have "injected" this word into the culture of Naples.
The earliest and most imaginative story dates back to French domination: the soldiers, in fact, periodically distributed free oranges to the population, exclaiming in French “pour toi!”. The Neapolitans, then, flocked to take "'e purtuà"

The second theory links the origin to the State of Portugal, who sold oranges to Spaniards which, in turn, brought them to Naples.

The third is the most fascinating and perhaps the most credible hypothesis: the word would even derive from Greek "portokalia" (... or portokalòs), which in turn could have imported it from the East or from North Africa. In Arabic, in fact, orange is burtuqal.

This would also explain why many oriental languages have declensions of “purtuallo '” as the proper name of the citrus fruit.

-Federico Quagliuolo

A curious comparison of the word "orange" in all Italian languages: https://www.dialettando.com/dizionario/detail.lasso?id=877

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