The jargon of the carder (or comber) of wool has survived long after the sun has set on this ancient craft. Called “trignino” (trëgninë in the local dialect) in Cerqueto , (“tregnéla” or “trignano” in the bordering Pietracamela, “càrpene” in Fara San Martino, province of Chieti) ,this jargon was developed over the years and the miles by the ranks of itinerant workers who, with their arts of carding, reached other areas of the interior, neighbouring regions and other more distant ones. These carders of Cerqueto, exclusively male, often travelled in pairs , carrying the tools of the trade with them: two stackable wooden boards – the upper board weighed about ten kilos and was fitted with nails and two handles – and their own language which was completely obscure to those outside the circle. Today this jargon is considered a cultural heritage asset and an identifying brand of the community of Cerqueto, while its unintelligibility awakens the memories.
The profession of wool carder has, for a long time, contributed to structuring the socio-economic configuration of at least three towns in Abruzzo: Pietracamela (Teramo), Cerqueto di Fano Adriano (Teramo) and Fara San Martino (Chieti). An ancient activity, it was carried out over a wide territory: from an study carried out by Ernesto Giammarco, published in 1964, it appears that the wool carders from Cerqueto travelled, above all, to the Marche, Molise and the towns of the province of L’Aquila and Chieti, without ever meeting the carders from Pietracamela . In the course of these movements, the carders developed and practiced a jargon of the craft, the “trignino” or trëgninë (the name is similar to the glottonym “trignano”, “tregnéla”, referring to the jargon of the carders of Pietracamela, which in turn, alludes to the forest of Trignale or, more iconically, the idea of the plot, the conspiracy – the Cerquetan carder is called “tramatore”, “tramato” or plotter in the jargon). Also in 1964, Don Nicola Jobbi recorded a conversation in which some of the carders improvised a discussion on how to do the work of carding in a home in which the owners do not seem to treat them well. Like all jargons linked to itinerant trades, it held an essentially cryptolalic function, aimed at making the conversations between the carders completely incomprehensible to the clients. However, we must not believe that wool carding was an exclusively itinerant job. From some of the testimonies collected recently, in fact, we know that the Cerquetan carders worked throughout the year, remaining in the village. There was also, in fact, a reverse movement, as we have recently been told by an elderly woman from Cerchiara (87 years old), who in her youth, used to walk for half a day, up the ridge of the Gran Sasso mountain and down to Cerqueto with a load of raw wool to be carded.
Although this trade disappeared many years ago, its jargon, despite being eroded and partially transformed (in particular at the level of pronunciation), has remained a cultural heritage of the whole community (men and women), ending up being included in the repertoire of the local language.
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The jargon of the Cerqueto carders
Vincenzina Leonardi, remembering the craft of her father, a carder, gives the example of a slang word.
Cerqueto di Fano Adriano, 29 December 2012.
Video footage by Silvia Pallini, Archivio Centro Studi Sociolingua.
Transmission and Conservation
The first collection known to us of the trignino jargon is the one created by Ernesto Giammarco, and published in 1964 in Abruzzo. Journal of the Institute of Studies of Abruzzo. In his article, Giammarco collected one hundred and thirteen items, each of which accompanied by the translation, provided in particular by three informants: Francesco Mastrodascio, Rocco Moretti and Luigi Ruscio, who were at the time, respectively, 71, 85, and 85 years old.
Therefore, the jargon is no longer unknown to us , although the craft that produced it and used it disappeared more than seventy years ago. However, both in Cerqueto and in Pietracamela, there are several contemporary accounts of the ancient craft and there is evidence of a sometimes “playful” use of the jargon by some inhabitants of Cerqueto. Fifty years after the study by Giammarco, both on the occasion of interviews conducted in Pietracamela in 2013 and on the occasion of the publication of the Abruzzo 6 CD by Gianfranco Spitilli (Spitilli 2014), which includes various archival materials, in particular from the archives of Don Nicola Jobbi, we were able to appreciate how the knowledge of this jargon is still widespread among the populations of Pietracamela and Cerqueto , and how it has become over the years a common heritage along the bearers of the local memory, not only men but also women. It is likely that, on their return from their journeys, the carders narrated their adventures to the villagers so, the whole community came to share in the linguistic-narrative-memorial heritage. Our research missions in Cerqueto from 2012 to 2017 have allowed us to verify and expand the lexical corpora collected, to measure their evolution and, above all, to evaluate a certain vitality of the trignino jargon in spite of the absence of the historical reasons that created it.