In yesterday’s entry, I was discussing some of the quaint English figures of speech that one can incorporate into every day conversation as a means of sounding a little more native. A 19th century upper-class native, but native nevertheless. I say – corking kippers, wot?
Growing up in an Italian household, I was privy to my share of quaint Italian turns of phrase, unique little Italianisms that I’d like to offer to anyone looking to make an instant impression (and, in many cases, give instant offense) while either traveling abroad or visiting those Italian in-laws.
La testa tua è…: Translates to “Your head is…” and is a favorite of my mom’s who uses it to dismiss someone’s crazy idea or erroneous assumption. For instance, if someone suggests her salad is bitter, she’ll respond by incorporating the offending word into the phrase regardless of whether it is Italian or not. “La testa tua è bitter!” (“Your head is bitter!”).
Giochi di mani, giochi di villani: Roughly translates to “Hand games; villain’s games.” My grandmother (on my mother’s side) used this one whenever she’d catch my sister and I smacking, flicking, or pinching each other.
Vati fare friggere!/Vai a farti frigerre!: Roughly translates to: “Get lost!”. Another momism. She uses this one to get in the parting shot in a typically long and frustrating discussion that has ended in a stalemate.
Chi lavora manga, chi non lavora si gratta la pancia: Translates to “He who works eats. He who doesn’t work scratches their bellies.”. Like most traditional Italians, my grandmother (on my mother’s side) had a strong work ethic and, as such, would always toss this one out whenever my sister and I would try to get out of doing our chores.
Cotto o crudo, lo fuoco la veduto: Translates to “Cooked or raw, it’s seen the fire.” This one is used when it’s time to eat and the cook isn’t quite sure whether the dish is ready or not. Regardless, it’s seen the fire and is being served.
Come una stronzo: Translates to “Like a piece of crap.” But not just any crap. A long, laborious, winding crap. My father, who almost always spoke English, would go to this one whenever caught behind a frustratingly slow driver.
Scemo/scema: Translation: “Fool” Whenever I used to goof around, my mother would reprimand me for “playing the fool” (“farre il schemo”).
Asino: Literally translates to “Ass” Figuratively, it translates to someone lazily stupid. Mom loves this one, using it to describe any number of underachieving individuals, especially when it comes to studies.
Cretino: Translates to “Cretin” or “Idiot”. This one’s a bit harsh which is why I love using it. My mother doesn’t approve but, really, who do you think I learned it from?
Ciuccio: Translates to “Idiot” as well but this one is almost endearing, a term one might use to describe a lovable village idiot.
‘sta crapa: My sister claims that it translates to “This goat.” and is uttered while indicating the person in question, sort of the equivalent to “To get a load of this one.” or “We’ve got a live one here.”
Occhi più grande dello stomaco: This one has equivalents in many languages, “Eyes bigger than the stomach”, suggesting someone who has overestimated their appetite. My mother loves to pull this one out whenever someone at the table hasn’t finished everything on their plate.
Ti se scappato la mana: Literally “It slipped/got away from your hand.” My father would use this one whenever he felt my mother had oversalted a dish, suggesting the salt got away from her.
Start with these. I’ll see what else I can come up with.
Last night, we sat down to yet another Mallozzi holiday tradition: the annual watching of the A Christmas Story dvd. Love that movie.
“Be sure to drink your ovaltine?”