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Italian Ices

Jan 16, 2014
Originally published on March 4, 2015 9:22 am

This game honors those sweet frozen treats known as Italian ices. House musician and Italian-speaker Jonathan Coulton clues contestants to words, phrases and titles that end in the letters "i-c-e." The catch, of course, is that all answers must be said with a Continental flair: "i-c-e," will sound like "EE-chay." Buona fortuna!

Plus, Coulton swings a rendition of Renato Carosone's Neapolitan tune "Tu Vuò Fà L'Americano," whose lyrics lampoon Italians for imitating an American lifestyle that includes baseball, Camel cigarettes and rock 'n roll.

Heard in Episode 307: Eat, Play, Love

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From NPR and WYNC live from the Bell House in Brooklyn, New York, this is ASK ME ANOTHER.


EISENBERG: All right. I'm Ophira Eisenberg, your host for the next hour of puzzles, word games, and trivia. And coming up, we'll play a few rounds with our Very Important Puzzler, author of "Eat, Pray, Love" Elizabeth Gilbert.


EISENBERG: But to kick things off, let's welcome our puzzle guru Greg Pliska and our one-man house band Mr. Jonathan Coulton.


JONATHAN COULTON: Hello, everybody.


EISENBERG: Now, our first game is called Italian Ices. Jonathan, I know that we've never really talked about this before on stage or otherwise, but do you speak Italian?

COULTON: I actually do speak Italian. I took Italian for many years in college, so.

EISENBERG: Oh, really? And what college did you go to? I don't remember talking about this.

COULTON: It was Yale. It's an Ivy League, actually.



COULTON: So, yeah, I speak Italian pretty well, as you might imagine.


EISENBERG: Well, I wonder if our contestants speak Italian. Let's find out and welcome our contestants Andrew Cavanagh and Sean Connolly.


EISENBERG: Sean, Andrew, do either of you speak Italian?

SEAN CONNOLLY: I do not. Does Latin count?

EISENBERG: Latin could count for something in a different game.

CONNOLLY: It's the first time it has.

EISENBERG: Have you ever had an Italian ice?


EISENBERG: Yeah? What'd you think?

CONNOLLY: That I enjoy.

EISENBERG: Yeah. It's good, right? OK. You're going to be in perfect shape. Andrew, do you speak Italian?

ANDREW CAVANAGH: Mm-hmm. Un po'.

EISENBERG: Oh, wow. So that means a little, right?

CAVANAGH: Three semesters and I have about one sentence left. So I'm hanging on to it pretty hard.

EISENBERG: OK. Will come in handy. Jonathan, tell us about Italian ices.

COULTON: Well, Ophira, Italian ices, that's the one thing about Italy that everybody loves. The ice is different there.


COULTON: It's often flavored and colored. Everyone loves Italian ices. What we've done is we've created a game to honor this delicious frozen treat. I will describe a word, phrase, or a title containing a word ending in I-C-E and you will provide the word or phrase. But you know when in Rome you have to say the word ending in I-C-E with a continental flare, pronouncing it e-chay as they would in Italy. So, Greg, would you give us an example, please

PLISKA: I'm happy to help. If I said this NBC comedy series chronicled the lives of Dunder Mifflin employees in Scranton, Pennsylvania you would reply "The Off-echay."


COULTON: Belissimo, Greg.

PLISKA: Grazie, grazie.

COULTON: So the winner of this game will move on to our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show. Here we go. Born and raised in New Orleans, this author chose the French Quarter as the setting for her novel "Interview with the Vampire." "Interview with the Vampire."




CONNOLLY: Anne R-echay.




COULTON: If your skin or eyes are yellow or orange, you might be suffering from this excess accumulation of bile pigments.


COULTON: Andrew.

CAVANAGH: Jaund-echay.

COULTON: Jaun-dechay, si.


COULTON: That is the most disgusting flavor of Italian ice.


EISENBERG: Although it sounds nicer.

COULTON: It sounds nicer when you say it in Italian, but then you order it and you're like this tastes like bile.


COULTON: This '80s TV series suggested that Ray Bans and pastel t-shirts under white suit jackets might be considered appropriate police attire.


COULTON: Andrew.

CAVANAGH: "Miami V-echay."



EISENBERG: I like how you're getting in character, Andrew. Right.


EISENBERG: Yeah. You're right back in class. Three semesters are all coming together for you.

CAVANAGH: All at once. It's great.

COULTON: This event, which occurs near the end of June in the northern hemisphere marks the moment when the sun reaches its farthest point of the equator.


COULTON: Andrew.

CAVANAGH: The stol--solst-echay.

COULTON: Si. Difficult to pronounce but, yes.

CAVANAGH: I have a little bit of a stutter in Italian.



COULTON: Only in Italian, though. This agency, now the world's largest law office, was created by Congress in 1870 after the large number of private attorneys retained by the U.S. became too expensive.


COULTON: Andrew.

CAVANAGH: The Just-echay Department?

COULTON: Si. Or in America we say the Department of Just-echay. But yes.


COULTON: First produced in 1965 as an option for the Impala four-door hardtop, this car model is now only available from the GM fleet as a police patrol vehicle.

EISENBERG: Wow. They are law-abiding citizens.

COULTON: Yeah. They've never even seen pol-echay.


PLISKA: I think we can tell them that it's a Chevrolet model.

COULTON: Sure. It's a Chevrolet ending in I-C-E. Shall we throw it out there? Anybody know the answer?


COULTON: Caprice. Si.


CAVANAGH: Capr-echay.


COULTON: It's too late, Andrew. It's too late.

CAVANAGH: Does that not count?

COULTON: All right. This is your last question. The wife of violinist Mischa Elman claims that her husband coined this famous answer to the question how do you get to Carnegie Hall.


COULTON: Andrew.

CAVANAGH: Pract-echay.

COULTON: Si. Practice.

EISENBERG: Oh, yes. Or you can just take the EN to 57th Street.

COULTON: That's the other way. Just call a car.


COULTON: Just call a car serv-echay.


COULTON: I apologize to everyone. Greg, how'd they do on that one?

PLISKA: Well, you don't have to ask me tw-echay.


PLISKA: That would be Andrew.


EISENBERG: Congratulations, Andrew. We will see you again at our Ask Me One More final round at the end of the show.


COULTON: (singing in Italian)


EISENBERG: Jonathan Coulton. So, show-off Coulton...


EISENBERG: ...let's just talk about that song. So what is that song about?

COULTON: I have no idea. That song is about making fun of Italians who try to act like Americans.

EISENBERG: Oh. With ordering the...

COULTON: Whiskey and soda.

EISENBERG: Oh, yeah. Yeah.

COULTON: They play the rock n' roll and they play the baseball.

EISENBERG: The baseball.

COULTON: Yes, that's right.

EISENBERG: Very n-echay.

COULTON: Like Americans.

EISENBERG: Just like Americans. All right. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.