Lydia writes: I had known my (now) husband Carlo for a few months when we were invited by friends to a celebration dinner. It would be a smart event, and I asked Carlo what he was planning to wear. “I have a maroon velvet suit which will be perfect” he answered. Well, in England where I grew up “maroon velvet” suits have not been in fashion since sometime during the 1970s, but since we had not known each other for very long, and after all the Italians are supposed to know something about style, I politely said nothing.  

However there was no need to have worried. On the evening itself Carlo turned up wearing a very nice dark brown corduroy suit. He had translated the Italian for brown corduroy (velluto marrone) into the nearest equivalent English words, thus causing my confusion. Now I am learning Italian, and making up many more funny expressions of my own!