Sunday, 12 May 2013

Ben trovato

Ben trovato, Tall story, Exaggeration, Lie, Truth,
Ben trovato: Never let the truth spoil a good story


Adjectival phrase. Late 19th century.
[Italian, literally 'well found'.]

Of a story etc.: happily invented; appropriate though untrue.

I went to school with a chap named Ben Trovato who was either an exceptionally high achiever or, in a quite majestic display of nominative determinism, an inveterate liar. Perhaps tinged with a dash of jealousy, his name became something of a running joke (even with the teachers) and we would often pretend not to believe a word he said, particularly with regard to his somewhat incredible extra-curricular activities.

"Really? You won another tennis tournament at the weekend? The day after getting your pilot's licence! Did you indeed? Wow! What was your name again? Ben Trovato, wasn't it? Yes I think it is."

Bumping into him some years later, he told me rather wearily that he had changed his surname to de Fax (his mother's maiden name), so irksome had the jokes become. The final straw was apparently having one of his university applications returned, the words 'Please take the application seriously' scrawled in red ink next to his name. Although ben trovato remains one of my favourite foreign phrases in English, I decided then and there never to make a joke about that poor chap's name again, but rather to buy him a pint instead.


  1. That surname is agonisingly close to Travolta.


    1. That would be reason enough for me to change it.