5

I was watching Rachael Ray and she was making risotto with peas which she said is the first solid food for many Italian children. She was also trying to dispel the notion that risotto is hard or overly time consuming to make, and instead was rather easy. The Italian phrase was "Risi e Bisi" which means rice with peas, as shown in this link.

I was struck by how similar this sounds to "easy breezy" or "easy peasy" especially when Bisi (pronounced with a z sound) means peas, and that with children's rhyming or mishearing that the r sound from the first word could have migrated to the second for the phrase "easy breezy".

Does anyone know if there is any validity to this hunch?

  • Note that “risi e bisi” is a regional dish of north east of Italy. While risi (rice) is an Italian term, “bisi” ( peas) is not. So your assumption of a local dialectal expression moving to England to originate a similar sounding one with a different meaning, looks a bit far-fetched to me. – user067531 May 2 '18 at 15:58
2

It is a case of rhyming reduplication whose earliest usage dates back to the ‘40s. The assonance with a regional Italian dish appears to be casual:

Easy Peasy:

One of the earliest documented instances of easy-peasy appears in the 1940 American film The Long Voyage Home, used to advise a character to handle a suspicious box with care. The film takes place on a British steamship, a setting that accords with the Oxford English Dictionary’s estimation that easy-peasy originates as a British colloquialism or children’s slang.

The peasy in easy-peas is an instance of rhyming reduplication, a term best illustrated with some of English’s many other examples: freaky-deaky, razzle-dazzle, super-duper, teenie-weenie, to name a mere few.

(Dictionary.com)

  • 1
    ...which, to answer the OP more directly, means that rhyming reduplication is very common in all languages, there is not direct evidence of borrowing from Italian, and it is not likely borrowed from the Venetian dialect since most Italian Americans emigrated from Southern Italy. A negative is hard to prove, but this is all evidence that it is not very likely. – Mitch May 2 '18 at 16:27
  • @Mitch - well, checking with a Google Books it appears that the Italian recipe is more popular in the UK and the USA than I first supposed. There are recipe books from the ‘30 and ‘40 in English which cite this dish, but I’m pretty sure that, unlike in Italy, it was not a common dish for children in England or the USA. – user067531 May 2 '18 at 16:48
  • User38... Oh. I missed the '[possibly] originates as a Br colloquialism'. I don't know the demographics of Italian migration to the UK so I can't really judge there. Next question is who first started following it with 'lemon-squeezy'? – Mitch May 2 '18 at 19:12
  • I found references online that indicate that the lemon squeezy variant came from a now defunct British dish soap's advertising. The soap was apparently lemon scented. – C. Griffin May 3 '18 at 2:53

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.