Italian idioms are as old as nobody remembers for how long they have been used in the language. But they are used on a daily basis. Very often they sound quite crazy but they have their meaning. For sure, they have it.
I came across some of them some time ago and that’s why I wanted to share them with you. Here they are …
In bocca al lupo (Good luck! or Break a leg!): The Italians have a very interesting way to wish you success. They say “In bocca al lupo” which translated into English means “Into the wolf’s mouth”. The good luck metaphor can be interpreted in the following way. Your misfortune, bad luck and lack of a stroke of luck will be caught between the jaws of a scary beast which will swallow them up. And why exactly a wolf? In the beginning this greeting was used by hunters who chased game at the right time, at the right place. In this sense a wolf might symbolize a hard person or a hardship you must overcome. After that the expression became universal.
I will open a bracket here. Maybe the expression’s connected with Rome’s foundation myth about the Capitoline She-Wolf and Romulus and Remus. Bracket closed. As to the answer to this greeting, you might think the Italians reply “Grazie, a Crepi” (“I have to eat this wolf”) to it. But they do not. Their reply is “In culo alla balena” (“In the whale’s ass.”) . 😀 Probably these two expressions have been put into practice since Buona fortuna (Good Luck) are too simple and plain to the Italians …. and the latter do have a sense of humour and love animals. 😀
Avere le braccine corte (to have short arms): This is a typical Italian expression and cheeseparing and mean people have “short arms” in Italy. It dates back to the times when arms were used as measurements. Very often sellers made attempts to cheat their customers and gave less than poor clients had paid for. Nowadays an Italian would explain the meaning of the expression in the following way: “A person who has “braccia/braccine corte” is a tyrannosaurus rex that tries to reach into its pockets for its wallet. Unfortunately, it is rather impossible, even if it’s his turn to pay the drinks at the bar!”.
Non mi rompere i maroni (Don’t break my chestnuts!): You might defend yourself from a person who is disturbing you or is getting on your nerves with it. You’d better use it rather than you yourself start throwing chestnuts at him/her at the moment when you are greatly affected.
Hai voluto la bicicletta? E adesso pedala! (You wanted the bike? Now you’ve gotta ride it!): This expression is used with much sarcasm because it’s typical for situations when one refuses to take any responsibility for their own actions no matter how many times they have been warned about the consequences. Eh, in this case it’s quite right that one ride the bike that was so much awaited.
Braccia rubate all’agricoltura (Arms stolen from agricultural work): This is my favourite one.:D As I mentioned above, if someone is mean, they have le braccia corte. But if somebody tries to do intellectual work although they aren’t capable of doing it, such persons “have robbed unfairly agriculture”. Their skills are clearly limited to fields and meadows and they’d better off working on a farm or somewhere in the countryside. Such “stolen arms from agriculture” cannot cope with intellectual tasks.
Tirare il pacco (to throw the package): As a matter of fact, I sometimes throw the package but it’s not on purpose. I am just too absent-minded and forget about appointments. So, my friends know me and don’t get irritated if I don’t show up to a date or meeting with them.
Non avere peli sulla lingua / senza pelli sulla lingua (without hair on his tongue): We frequently ask our friends for their honest opinion. Some of them they will tell us what we want to hear. But the right and correct way for us is when they speak their mind and are brutally honest and blunt with us. In this case the Italians expect their friends to express their opinion “without hair on their tongue”.
Si chiama Pietro e torna indietro (Its name is Peter and it comes back): This expression is very common and widely used in Italy and it’s been shortened to the first part only “Si chiama Pietro”. You might ask who Pietro is and what the phrase is used for. In fact, Pietro is nobody so special in Italy. It’s just a common name there. It’s been chosen for this expression because there is a rhyme between the two words – Pietro and indietro. Hmmm …Probably English-speaking natives would choose Jack and this typical Italian expression would sound as follows: ”Its name is Jack and it comes back”. As for the usage, the Italians use it when they lend something to someone. When a friend of yours asks you to lend him/her something, you agree and after that you ought to add “Si chiama Pietro” which will mean that you want this thing to be turned back.
Fare le corna a qualcuno (to have horns put on somebody): Not only the Italians but also the Bulgarians have the same expression. It’s used for both sexes but mainly Bulgarian and Italian men have horns put on them. It means that their girlfriends aren’t faithful to them and have betrayed them. In other words said, a man has horns when his partner has a lover (or even more than one lover). Unlike the Italians, we, the Bulgarians don’t use the finger gesture representing a horn to express our dissatisfaction and to offend somebody.
Vai a farti benedire (Go to get blessed) and Vai a quel paese (Go to that town): In the end, I am not sure I do want to write about these two expressions because they are equal to the English one that consists of two parts – the first one starting with “F” and the second one being “off”. Guess which it is. 🙂