Sunday, June 29, 2008

Pentola, Pentola, Pentola, Bolli

Having found no fewer than 100 ways to fail to boil water, we were delighted to unearth an Italian magic spell that works even on a watched pot: Pentola, pentola, pentola, bolli.
‘Do you know what Pascoli said to the kettle which wouldn’t boil for his dinner?’ Monti suddenly asked one morning, ‘Pentola, pentola, pentola, bolli.’
—Iris Origo, Images and Shadows (1999)
Speaking of boiling water, here's a fun coincidence: While investigating a reference to "lirum larum" for our dictionary of magic words, we came across the song of a will-o'-the-wisp who just so happens to be describing bringing a kettle of water to a boil. Here's the quotation:
"Lirum! Larum! Long ago! long ago!" sang the little Light. "Is twenty years long ago? Ha, ha, ha! Yes,—twenty years ago and more, —the Kettle chirped its watery song; there I sat, and there I burned, on that one blissful evening!"
—Marie Petersen, The Will-o'-the-Wisps (1883)

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