General Writing and Grammar Help/Reading Comprehension

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Question
Dear Ted,
While reading a text about an Italian young violinist, I came across this sentence (Actually it's a quotation from her father about her):
"When she plays the violin, she's passionate - that's the Italian in her. When I see her play, I often cry."
What does 'that's the Italian in her' mean actually?
I'd be grateful if you can help me with it.

Answer
Dear Bob:

While reading a text about an Italian young violinist, I came across this sentence (Actually it's a quotation from her father about her):
"When she plays the violin, she's passionate - that's the Italian in her. When I see her play, I often cry."
What does 'that's the Italian in her' mean actually?
I'd be grateful if you can help me with it.

*** I can see why you have a problem with the phrase; it is an idiom, and it is not often used.

Let me give you a different example:  John is a young man, and he is very good at playing different sports.  John's mother is also athletic; John's father has always stayed away from playing any sport, because he tends to be clumsy and makes many errors.  Some people use this idiom:  John takes after his mother.  Other people might use this idiom:  John is very athletic; that's his mother in him.

Your quoted passage means that the violinist has an Italian trait in her general makeup or personality.  That trait is her passionate nature.  [Italians are known to be very passionate about everything.]

"That's the Italian in her" means that the Italian part of her background [or her personality] shows through:  She plays the violin very passionately, like an Italian would.

Ted

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Ted Nesbitt

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I am the bibliographic instruction and reference librarian at a public college. Some members of the English department recommend me to their students. I offer assistance in grammar, punctuation, sentence structure, and paragraph development. My master`s thesis concerns William Faulkner`s tragic novels. I formerly taught advanced placement English at two schools in the Philadelphia area.

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I have been one of the highest-ranked volunteers in this category for more than a decade.

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B. A. and M. A in English; MSIS in Library & Information Sciences; graduate study in philosophy

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