Dictionary Review


Dizionario Multilingue delle armi

AuthorsMori, Edoardo
Golino, Lorenzo
Publisher:Editoriale Olimpia
Publication date:1998
PriceIt was Lit. 29.000 or about €15.00
Available from:Editoriale Olimpia
v.le Milton 7, 50125
Florence, Italy
+055/50161, fax: +055/5016280
Languages:Italian, English, German, Spanish
Number of pages:400
Number of entries:8,700

Dizionario della Guerra moderna

AuthorsAnnati, Massimo
Valpolini, Paolo
Publisher:Mursia: Milan
Publication date:2002
Available from:Gruppo Ugo Mursia Editore S.p.A.
Milan, Italy
Languages:Italian and some English
Number of pages:319
Number of entries:1,000

These are somber times of war. Translators and interpreters face direct dangers, as demonstrated by too many Iraqi colleagues killed in the line of duty, to whose families go both my sympathy and condolences.

In view of the current events, it seems relevant to discuss two dictionaries recently published in Italy on weapons and warfare, listed above.

We are told that Mori Golino's work is a polyglot reference [MG], while Annati & Valpolini's is a monolingual dictionary [AV]. In character with our subject matter, the official version requires further scrutiny.

Judge Mori is a magistrate in Bolzano, Trentino Alto Adige/Südtirol (a autonomous region In Northern Italy of German and Italian speakers), and Golino is an Army Engineer general with solid antiterrorism credentials. Professional interests, logistics and backgrounds have focused their attention toward German. It is stated so from the beginning, in the MG introduction, which lists 3 major multilingual references, all German. To prove it, next comes a brave short synopsis of basic German grammar and pronunciation. The distribution skewness of the corpus is obvious: The Italian baseline covers 156 pages, German listing is 119 page long, English 69, French 18 and Spanish 15.

In exchange, Annati Valpolini have a hard time limiting their scope to the dolce idioma, notwithstanding the not indifferent Italian expertise in this field (one should remember that firms such as Beretta have been in business since 1526 AD). A case in point: Pace is expressed on page 85 by a dubious English quartet (Peace Building, Peace Enforcement, Peace Keeping and Peace Support Operations), not one Italian lemma in the bunch. Nor is the characterization as "dictionary" fully transparent. It applies to the first section only, 101 pages of Military Lexicon and about 500 entries, because the remaining 3 sections are dedicated to a well-informed analysis of systems, platforms and sundry malefic toys.

Due to their diversity in plan and scope, the two references are best viewed separately, starting with MG. On its back cover the publicist recommends the dictionary of weapons to "fans and professionals in the field [Un'opera fondamentale per gli appassionati ed i professionisti di settore]. Do not think of Janjaweed scum and Sudanese Armed Forces as I did. The "field" refers to the arguments covered, which include technology, militaria, ballistics, hunting, archery and target shooting in addition to edged weapons.

The text is organized in two tight columns and the font is minuscule. There are entire pages of string headwords represented by slashes (\\) without summarizing headers. In short: MG is somewhat difficult to read.

Trying to compensate for my ignorance in some of the areas studied by Mori and Golino, I have run a random search followed by a brief sortie into a better known territory.

My hit-and-skip approach has produced some odd results: Armory is listed under Arsenale (con produzione delle armi) or arsenal with weapon production, while I expected it under Arsenale (solo deposito di army) or depot only, whereas artiglieria contraerea is rendered as a thought-provoking ANTI-AIRKRAFT ARTILLERY. ANTITANK ROCKET LAUNCHER is correctly translated as lanciarazzi controcarro, according to standard Italian Army lexicon, but the equally common lanciarazzi anticarro is ignored. Similar linguistic divorce between civilian and military wor(l)ds was reflected by the persistent usage of autiere on past Army driver's licenses vs. the commoner (albeit inexact, because it should be reserved to autism sufferers) autista.

INTEGRAL applies to both integrale and incorporato, while the latter means "built-in". Radiocomandato or radio-controlled has no English equivalent and telecomando or remote is simply absent. Registrazione (the act of recording) is rendered as REGISTRATION and both recording and record are restricted to RECORD SERVICE PRACTICE or addestramento al tiro and to RECORDING TARGET or rosa / rosata, respectively. CASKET is aseptically expressed by cofanoor case, foretelling current Pentagon policy of low key denial. Also, ricerca is rendered three different ways (examination, inspection and investigation) but not as SEARCH, thus avoiding any discredited association with WMD (or weapons of mass destructions) and Central African uranium.


A more in-depth check on edged weapons has produced the following results:




pole arm


þ also: Arma da botta, punta e taglio


scure d'arme inastata

þ also: Ascia da abbordaggio, Ascia da guerra

partizan / partisan


þ spelled Partizen

fauchard / Falchion


þ only as Falchion

Glaive /Guisarme

falcione / guisarma inastata


Ox-tongue partisan

partigiana a lingua di bue

þ only as: Ochsenzunge


[suisse, german, spanish, italian, imperial guard, sabre – ]

alabarda [alla svizzera, alla tedesca, alla spagnola, all'italiana, da trabante, da caccia]






spiedo alla furlana

þ only in the German list






þ also: Spiedo

* English sources:

  • C.H. Ashdown, British and Continental Arms and Armour, Dover: New York, 1970 (1909-I1).
  • R.F. Burton, The Book of the Sword, Dover: New York, 1987(1884-I)
  • G.C. Stone, A Glossary of Construction, Decoration and Use of Arms and Armor, Brussell: New York, 1961 (1934-I)>

The récueil is equally strong when we look at morning stars, swords, axes, sabres, maces, etc. This perfection is easily explained: Our very same Edoardo Mori is a well rounded scholar who has penned another gem, the Picture Glossary of Edged Weapons (Italian/English/German/French) published on line by Enciclopedia delle armi (http://www.earmi.it/armi/glossario/glossario00.htm).

AV is much easier on the eye, has a bigger font, appropriate headers and a more relaxed bicolumnar format. Nevertheless, behind this nicer façade lurks a reality much more ominous than the realm of épées, long bows and target practice. Simply put, Annati and Valpolini pay total attention to current events. Their listing bristles with MUJAHEDDIN AND WILD WEASELS, ghostly WMD such as Iraq's Al HUJARAHS, AL HUSSEINS and TABUN, deadly MOUT (or Military Operation in Urban Terrain) and FAE (Fuel Air Explosive) BOMBS.

Only the DOD Dictionary of Military Terms, authored by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in 1988 for the typeface of Arco Publishing, New York, is more threatening, as epitomized by the reduction of havens to a semi-intelligible " restricted areas established to provide a measure of security to submarines and surface ships in transit through areas in which the existing attack restrictions would be inadequate to prevent attack by friendly force

AV offers instead such exploits of military cleverness as DEAD or Destruction of Enemy Air Defenses or the much friendlier Floreal, a class of surveillance French frigates, and Rubis, a class of French nuclear submarines; danni collaterali or collateral damages, what we civilians call murdered women and children; and operazioni militari diverse dalla guerra o MOOTW (Military Operation Other Than War) such as Abu Grab and Guantanamo. The listing is impressive and the explanations are clear, concise, and non-judgmental (an attitude that I found very difficult to achieve). The chilling effect is even greater when we read section 2, simply titled "Crisis and Conflict Tools". It is almost a condensed version of Jane's Review, encompassing Russian and Chinese systems, old and new, together with their NATO, UK, US, French, Indian, etc. counterparts.

What I truly appreciate is the attention paid to acronyms and their solution. It is an important effort against an insidious form of MASKIROVKA (explained as the Russian term for MASKING or mascheramento, i.e.: disinformation): SADARM is not a nasty relative of S. Hussein, but refers to a SENSE AND DESTROY ARMOR, an intelligent [what a misnomer] submunition developed by Alliant Techsystems. MEADS won't get you drunk, it's a US, Italian and German joint-venture to develop a MEDIUM EXTENDED (ballistic) AIR DEFENSE SYSTEM, expected to be on line by 2012. PAP has nothing to do with cancer prevention, but is a POISSON AUTOPROPULSE, a French remote-operated submarine robot used to find and neutralize sea mines. LAV does not stand for "lavatory", but indicates a LIGHT ARMORED VEHICLE, something that is sorely needed along the Iraqi roads, as much as the forever-not-quite-working Dardo, its FIAT would be competitor, equally unavailable to the Italian forces in Nassirya.

AV spares no effort in clarifying double-talk and acronyms, one of the many tools used to make carnage glamorous. It's an old story, the same which brought to everlasting fame as a cool and martial accoutrement the SAM BROWNE BELT or cinturino con bandoliera, originally a tentative solution to the problem of carrying a sword as felt by a British amputee (later General Sir Samuel J. Browne, VC, GCB, KCSI) who in 1861 had left his left arm in Punjab in exchange for a Victoria Cross.

Still, no matter our personal views, these two works count. MG is probably more useful to those who work into and from German than to their English and Italian counterparts, but has areas of such solidity that it deserves the praise and attention of translators, historians and antiquarians alike. AV is a fast paced overview of our current state of affairs, a powerful tool to help us face the challenges and pitfalls of our troubled present. Even if one's goal is simply to understand, I strongly recommend both.