QUESTION: Dear Maria,
Would you please tell me if the following sentences are correct :
Ha un portamonete.
She has one purse.
Ha due portamonete.
She has two purses.
I wanted to make sure that “portamonete” is an invariable noun.
Would you also please tell me if I am correct to translate “portamonete” has “purse” – the small bag used by a woman to carry everyday personal items.
ANSWER: Dear Rich,
First of all “portamonete” is an invariable noun and then the sentences “Ha un portamonete” and “Ha due portamonete” are correct.
The Italian uncountable noun “portamonete”, which originally indicated a small container for coins only, while later it has been used to indicate a small bag for carrying coins and often also paper money, translates exactly as “purse” just in the sense of a small bag made of leather, plastic, etc. for carrying coins and often also paper money, cards, etc., used especially by women.
---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------
QUESTION: Dear Maria,
Would you please help me to better understand this subject.
My wife (as do all American women) almost always carries a "purse". She keeps items such as car keys, hair brush, make up, wallet, cell phone, etc inside this “purse”.
Would the Italian word “portamonete” be used to refer to this type of “purse”?
first of all I’ve said that “portamonete” must be translated as “purse” because I was using the British English “purse” which is different from the American English use: hence the confusion which has been caused for British English and American English have different way to translate “portamonete”, as you can read below.
So, I have to point out that the Italian word “portamonete”, whose synonym is “borsellino”, can be used only to indicate a small bag/pouch made of leather or plastic for carrying coins and sometimes also paper money, but not to contain “items such as car keys, hair brush, make up, wallet, cell phone, etc.”, as you say.
The noun “portamonete” is composed in fact of “porta-” from the verb “portare” (to carry) and “monete” (plural of “moneta”, meaning “coin”, i.e. money in the form of metal coins).
This is why “portamonete” originally indicated a small bag made of leather for carrying coins.
On the other hand, if in American English a purse is used by women to contain keys, hair brush, make up, wallet, cell phone, etc., it is obvious that it is wrong to translate “portamonete” as “purse”, whereas it would be perhaps correct to use “change purse” for “portamonete”, since it is the Italian feminine word “borsetta”( = piccola borsa,i.e. small bag) that corresponds to the American English “purse” and to the Brithish English “handbag” which is just “a small bag for money, keys, make-up, etc., carried especially by women”.
See for example:”Lei prese la spazzola dalla borsetta e cominciň a spazzolarsi i capelli” (She took her hairbrush from her handbag (UK) /purse (US) and began to brush her hair);”La borsetta le fu scippata per strada” (Her handbag (UK) /purse (US)was snatched from her in the street); “Aveva perso il portamonete” (He lost his change purse), etc.
To sum up:
-portamonete = change purse (US) / purse ( UK )
-borsetta = purse (US) / handbag (UK)
As you can see, when I’ve said that “portamonete” had to be translated as “purse”, I was using the British English “purse” which is different from the American English use: hence the confusion which has been caused for British English and American English have different way to translate “portamonete”, as I've already said.
Hope all is clear now.