False Friends - Part 6: Confetti or Coriandoli?

| Sat, 03/01/2014 - 03:00

Confetti, the small pieces or streamers of paper, which are usually thrown at Carnival parades and wedding celebrations, are actually known as coriandoli in Italian, while the word confetti refers to sugar panned almonds, in English, Jordan almonds or dragée.

The origin of the confusion between confetti and coriandoli goes back to Renaissance times when, during Carnival celebrations or wedding parties, people used to throw either almond candies, confetti, or coriander seeds, in Italian coriandolo.

As candies were expensive, though, the lower classes often used small chalk balls instead, called benis de gess (chalk candy). In 1875 an Italian businessman from Milan, Enrico Mangili, began selling paper confetti for use in the parade for the Carnevale di Milano.

Back then, the province of Milan was one of the main hubs of silk manufacturing. Mangili began to sell for profit the small punched paper disks that were left as a byproduct from the production of the holed sheets used by the silkworm breeders as cage bedding. The new paper confetti were well received because they were less harmful, funnier and cheaper than the alternatives, and took the name of 'coriandoli'.