It’s been 52 years since the word paparazzi travelled across the ocean from Europe into the American vocabulary. If only the paparazzi in the US and other countries knew what their name meant in Italian, obscure as it may be, they’d probably want to be known what they were in the early 1960’s. Believe it or not they were acknowledged as real press photographers. (excuse me while I take a deep breath and remain calm)
Anyone who has studied foreign film as I have recently, would know where the term paparazzi (actually paparazzo) came from. The Federico Fellini 1960 classic “La Dolce Vita“ had a pivotal character in the storyline who happened to be a press photographer by the name of Paparazzo. It has also been rumored to be based on an odd Italian word called “papataceo” which is literally a description for an annoying buzzing sound coming from a mosquito.
That’s right, it is clear that Fellini understood the annoyance of press photographers very early on in his directing career and maybe unknowingly created an entirely new term to these leeches via the name of a character in his movie. Rome in the 1950’s and 60’s was already considered a city that was obsessed with celebrities and Fellini intentionally reflected that universe in “La Dolce Vita.” Europe was also known as one of the worst places on Earth for celebrity photographers who would almost go to as many lengths as Hollywood paparazzi today to get a photograph of a celebrity. The main difference is that in 1960 Rome was fortunate enough to not have SUV’s that could potentially run a celebrity off a cliff or under a tunnel somewhere during a chase. The paparazzi in Italy have always ridden around in small, compact cars that are almost the equivalent of a little buzzing mosquito that can squeeze into tighter places to get photographs easier.
Wherever the term paparazzi comes from, the impressions of them are the same around the world. Hollywood is again trying to enact laws to control the paparazzi. The European paps do not have the free rein that they do in Tinseltown.
In Germany and France there are more restrictions against the paparazzi than other countries. Since the death of Princess Diana in Paris, where photographers “hunted” and chased her down under that tunnel on that horrific night there have been more restrictions against the paparazzi in France and Germany. In France the Paparazzi need permission from the people they are photographing but really how many really give the permission or get it. Europe is full of tabloid trash and I think it is high times to get some serious laws in North America to prevent children specifically from becoming bitten by these “annoying mosquitos”
Italian is truly a beautiful language and it can make a simple word make “dung” sound classy.
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