Learning Italian in the UK is nowadays a minority pursuit. In contrast, in the late sixteenth century to know it was an important weapon in the intellectual armoury of the elite: Lady Jane Grey, Queen Elizabeth and James VI and I’s consort, Anne of Denmark, all knew la bella lingua. John Florio, the author of the first substantial Italian-English dictionary, was a groom of Queen Anne’s chamber and enjoyed a position at court. Torriano inherited Florio’s manuscripts and published in 1639 New and Easie Directions for attaining the Thuscan Italian tongue and the year after that The Italian Tutor.
Another great American also made use of our vinegary wisdom. In an address to the Temperance Society in 1842, Abraham Lincoln enjoined his listeners thusly, adding alliteration into the bargain:
Sleaze, I maintain, possesses excellent mouthfeel – as the wine buffs and foodies would style it. Which is why it rears its ugly head with greater than average frequency – statistically speaking – in journalese. If it had a colour, it would be orange. If it had a voice, it would sound loud and brassy.