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This is about the treasure that the heroes are supposed to steal, hidden in a wall.

tra una camera da pranzo e un locale del Monte di Pietà.

E in questo locale che c'era? La "commare".

Chi?

La commare! La cassaforte dei preziosi!

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I know that this is the old form of "comare". Treccani:

(ant. commare) s. f. [lat. tardo commater, comp. di con- e mater «madre»]. – 1. a. Donna che tiene a battesimo o a cresima un bambino, madrina (e anche, rispetto a lei, la madre del battezzato o del cresimato). b. region. Levatrice, in quanto era lei che in alcune regioni presentava il neonato al battesimo. 2. estens. a. Donna che fa da testimone alle nozze (rispetto allo sposo o alla sposa, e reciprocamente la sposa rispetto alla testimone o al testimone). b. Vicina di casa, legata da rapporti di lunga amicizia e confidenza: le c. chiacchieravano nella piazzetta; i miracoli raccontati da fra Galdino quando va dalle commari alla cerca (Carducci); anche spreg.: ciarle, pettegolezzi da comari. c. Eufemismo (anche c. secca) con cui qualche volta viene indicata la morte; così nel prov. quando viene la c., di riffe o di raffe bisogna andare. d. Appellativo che nelle favole si aggiunge talora a nomi di animali: c. volpe. ◆ Dim. comarèlla (frequente in usi region. merid. per indicare una comare giovane o anche la figlioccia), comarùccia.

Thus, it is related to French commère and Romanian cumătră (which more probably comes directly from Latin commāter).

But watching the movie I was struck by the coincidence that in Romanian there is the word comoară which very specifically means "treasure". - By "very specifically" I mean that this word is THE word for "treasure" in Romanian; a Google-image search for it shows something like this:

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It seems that by pure coincidence the main Romanian word for "treasure" is almost the same as a slang Italian word for the same thing. --- But, to me, what a coincidence! - I cannot but ask:

Is there in some Italian dialect or regional language a word close to comare but meaning "treasure" - which could be the base for the form used here?

I am very skeptical about the Slavic etymology of the Romanian word -- Slavic root which supposedly is of Latin origin anyway, but through Turkish and/or Greek. Romanian does have a word that seems to have come on that path: cămară, with specific meaning: ”room”, ”pantry” -- while ”comoară”=treasure is something very different. It really means "cassaforte dei preziosi"!

Unlike the character played by Vittorio Gassman, who asks "who?" when he hears the word "commare", I knew the plot already and was expecting to hear something about a treasure: which I did... in my native Romanian...!


UPDATE:

Searching the internet, the few cases where this word is mentioned with this meaning --and consider it not a slang term but a word of the romanesco dialect-- make reference to this very film:

Commare : Comare; la cassaforte (nel film I soliti ignoti) [A];

Frasca Sergio. - Lessico Romanesco

http://www.trattoria-romana.it/romanesco/parole/

https://www.theromanpost.com/2016/06/dizionario-dialetto-romanesco/


So, most probably, this word with this form and meaning is to be seen as part of the romanesco dialect. But whether real or invented (slang or not), what could be its origin and inspiration? Could it be pure chance that an invented romanesco word takes a form so close to a Romanian word? By the way, the Romanian word for "Romanian" is românesc :))

Latin thesaurus means both ”treasure” and ”strongbox”. I was imagining that maybe there was some old Italic or PIE form which the Romanian word would reflect, with some other remnant in Italy.

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In the movie, Vittorio Gassman is a wannabe thief. He's in prison and concots a plan to make another thief telling him about a place where to rob: he pretends to have been sentenced to a long imprisonment so the other guy feels free to reveal him the place. After that, Gassmann goes free.

The fact that the character is a wannabe thief is told precisely in this scene: he doesn't know the crime underworld's slang.

A “commare” (mostly written “comare” in most dialects) is indeed slang for safe or strong-box (cassaforte).

Looking into etymology is mostly useless when dealing with slang.

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  • The film is more of a pretext here. The question was more about the Romanian term: is there an Italian word resembling Romanian comoară meaning "treasure" - (maybe appearing in the slang of the film)?
    – cipricus
    Mar 24, 2023 at 7:59
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    Mi potresti dire In quali dialetti com(m)are significa cassaforte? La mia impressione è che l’uso di com(m)are nel dialogo del film sia un eufemismo, una copertura per non nominare chiaramente il termine cassaforte e quindi destare possibili sospetti.
    – Hachi
    Mar 24, 2023 at 12:49
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    Mi chiedo se fosse una vera forma gergale, o se sia un'invenzione di Monicelli e soci (quindi “vero gergo” nell'universo del film, ma non nell'Italia degli anni '50).
    – DaG
    Mar 24, 2023 at 13:29
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    Ho cercato in lungo e in largo tra i vari dizionari e siti che si occupano di gergo malavitoso. Al momento non ho trovato nessun riferimento al termine com(m)are.
    – Hachi
    Mar 24, 2023 at 19:21
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    @cipricus Definitely not. It's slang (possibly invented in the movie) for strong-box, not chest-box, which is a different thing. See later in the movie when Totò teaches how to open a strong-box.
    – egreg
    Mar 26, 2023 at 22:05
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My main interest was in the etymology of the Romanian word. My intention was to check if there was an Italian parallel connection. I am sure now that a such Italian/Romanesco parallel can be excluded, because the word in the film is not recorded anywhere else.

Therefore, a “NO” to my question and the attribution of a Bulgarian connection for the etymology of the Romanian word are the most probable answers.


The best argument in favor of the relation between the widespread Slavic form komora (Bulgarian kamara) - meaning mostly ”chamber, vault” - and the Romanian word comoară=”treasure” is the etymology and semantics of the word treasure (tesoro, trésor etc) from Latin thēsaurus < Ancient Greek θησαυρός (thēsaurós), where the meaning ”compartment, vault, chamber” is joined with that of ”treasure vault, hoard, treasure”. This semantic transfer is present in the Romanian word ”comoară”, to the point where it became specialized to mean just ”treasure”, and to be separated from its doublet cămară meaning just ”room, chamber, cell”.

To clarify things, one has to put aside the word kamera (Romanian camera) present in many Slavic languages, including Russian, a neologism equivalent to the Italian word camera - usually including the somewhat ”modern” meanings of ”room” (sometimes in a technical sense), ”legislative body” and ”photographic camera”.

The word komora, present in many Slavic languages in the same form (but apparently not in Russian), to which Wiktionary gives a somewhat dubious Latin and/or Greek origin (given that a more direct Proto-Slavic < PIE origin - meaning ”curved cover”, hence ”vault” – is also possible), is somewhat different from the Bulgarian kamara and the Romanian cămară=”room”. This Romanian word has simply a concrete meaning (”chamber, cellar”), while the Slavic form komora is polysemic and has, beside this basic meaning, a more generic, abstract or technical use (“container”, “ventrical”, “chamber”, compartment”). Bulgarian seems to have three different words, although similar in form: one, pronounced 'kamərə, means “legislative body” and is of Turkish origin; a second one is an archaism, has the same pronunciation, means “chamber, vaulted room” and is of Slavic origin; a third one is pronounced kɐˈmarə, means “pile, heap” , ”a load”, ”a ton of” something, and supposedly is of Greek origin —based on formal but not (not at all!) semantic reasons.

Romanian word comoară ("treasure") seems developed formally on the path of the Slavic form komora (apparently present in Macedonian but not Bulgarian), although it seems that nowhere in a Slavic language has this widely spread form developed the meaning ”treasure”.

Summing it up: the Romanian word comoară (”treasure”) follows the Slavic form komora (”chamber, compartment”), but has semantically developed on the Greek, Latin and Neo-Latin model of the transfer of meaning from ”vaulted chamber” to ”treasure”. The Bulgarian kamara ([ˈkamərə], a Slavic form) is reflected in Romanian by the word cămară (cellar), but the meaning of [kɐˈmarə] ”pile, heap” might have influenced —or might have been influenced by— the Romanian word comoară (meaning: ”hoard”, ”pile of gold”).

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