A Few Fabulous Italianisms. 

Whilst I’ve been learning Italian, a few funny phrases have popped up along the way that I couldn’t not make note of. Most of these came up in my Italian classes, so these are the explanations given by my wise teacher Massimo.

1.  Una promessa da marinaio

I’m going to begin with my favourite: ‘a sailor promise.’ These are simply promises that won’t be kept. Sailors had a different woman in every port and they’d tell each one they’d return to marry them, which of course never happened. Hence why they’ve become synonymous with false promises.

2. Chi dorme non piglia pesci

‘Who sleeps catches no fish.’ This little phrase means there are no rewards to reap from being lazy.

3. Aria fritta

This one is short and sweet, it just means ‘fried air.’ In Italian it has a sort of ring to it, and it’s used to describe empty promises. I picked this up at one of the Caffè e Giornale sessions (see my previous post on this), when we were discussing politicians.

4. Toccare ferro (di cavallo)

Italians don’t say ‘touch wood,’ instead they use ‘touch iron.’ Apparently this is an abbreviation of a longer phrase, which also includes the part I’ve added in brackets, ‘di cavallo.’ The whole phrase translates to ‘touch horseshoe,’ because horseshoes have long been considered tokens of good luck, capable of keeping the devil at bay.

If I stumble on any more, I’ll be sure to share them.


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