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It seems to refer to a place. But which?

I thought it was Greek, maybe, or Turkish. No idea it was Itai.

This is from Triangle at Rhodes Agatha Christie (1936 story, 1989 TV adaptation). The character didn't know Rhodes was 'Itai'.

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    What is the source of this sentence please? When asking about sentences that others have written (or said), please provide a source and author, and if possible a link so that additional context is available. If a link is not possible, please provide additional context. -- at a guess (which is all that is possible without more context) this is short for "Italian". I am not giving this as an answer because more context is needed. Apr 24 at 17:21
  • @Michael Harvey Thanks. I know that story, in fact I own a copy, although I have not seen that dramatization of it. "Eyti" was once slang for "Italian" not very polite slang, although nicer than "Wop". It was current in the first half of the 20th century in the US, and I think in the UK also, but I am not sure. That might be the answer. Apr 24 at 18:51
  • Bravo, gentlemen. The investigation worthy of Poirot himself. @MichaelHarvey if you please make that an answer, I will accept. Apr 24 at 19:08
  • I meant @DavidSiegel, of course. Apologies. Apr 24 at 19:11
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    No details of where the quote came from, and none of any research you have done. Apr 24 at 19:32

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Merriam-webster gives

"Eyetie", less commonly "Eytie" adjective or noun

(Pronounced Eye·​tie, \ ˈītē , ˈīˌtī ) as meaning "italian" often disparaging + offensive

Wiktionary gives a similar meaning. So does The urban dictionary

These would all be pronounced in much the same way as "Itai" All of these date the term to the WWII era, and I was about to put this down to an anachronism introduced by the script writers, but this OED page reads:

One notable feature of the vocabulary of the First World War is the number of (often offensive) terms coined for soldiers of different nationalities. One of these is Eyetie (spelled in various ways, including Iti and Eyety) meaning ‘Italian’. Eyetalian was already in use in the 19th century, but the abbreviated form Eyetie appears to have been a WWI coinage. The earliest evidence we have found so far is:

Our army in Italy always spoke of the Italians as the ‘Itis’ (pronounced ‘Eye-ties’). 1919 Athenæum 22 Aug., p. 791/2

This indicates that the term was used during the war; is there any earlier written evidence?

Thus it seems that the term was already in use when the underlying story was written in 1936, although the term does not seem to appear in the written story.

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  • What is the underlying story? There's noting in the question about WWI
    – James K
    Apr 24 at 21:10
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    @JamesK - Not provided by OP - 'Triangle at Rhodes' Agatha Christie (1936 story, 1989 TV adaptation). Character didn't know Rhodes was 'Eyetie' (Italian). Was from 1912 to 1947 then Greek. I must say that I have had a lifelong interest in low speech and its representation in literature, and I have never before seen 'Itai' instead of 'Eyetie'. I wonder if it was done out of an odd kind of delicacy. It is present in the script spelled thus, and is an invention of the 1989 TV adapters (no such remark appears in the 1936 story). Apr 24 at 21:55
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    @JamesK Michael Harvey identified the story in a comment to which I responded, and whch was later, I think, deleted. This was all before I posted my answer. Apr 24 at 22:09
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    Worth noting, perhaps, that a TV, play, or film script is a set of instructions to actors, specifying what they are to say. The script was not intended to be published as literature. Apr 25 at 14:14
  • I wrote "I have never before seen 'Itai' instead of 'Eyetie'. I wonder if it was done out of an odd kind of delicacy" - the explanation could equally well be ignorance. Apr 26 at 8:35

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