Word of the Day

“That’s crazy!” is probably one of the best translations you can get for our roba da matti (roh-bah dah maht-tee), but you can also use “unbelievable!,” “that’s unbelievable!” and, sometimes, even “I can’t believe it!”. Literally, it means “stuff for the loonies” and it’s quite usually uttered with an incredibly surprised …

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Scusa (sk-oo-sah), is just as ubiquitous in the Italian language as its translation, “sorry,” is in English, and it is used in the exact same way.   Scusa is the second person singular of the word scusare, which means “to excuse, to apologize” and a noun that corresponds to the English “excuse, pretext.” So we have “scusa, devo andare” (Sorry, I’ve got to go), but also “la tua è solo una scusa” (yours is only an excuse).  In Italy, scusa is used continuously: we are mannerly, but we are also pretty good at getting out of difficult or unwanted situations using an excuse when necessary.  Take the sentence scusa, stasera non posso uscire perché ho mal di testa, “Sorry, I can’t go out tonight, I’ve a headache.” It puts togeether the two meanings of “scusa:” the apology and the excuse, because — as we all known— having a headache is the most common excuse to avoid doing something we don’t want to do.   Scusa, sono in ritardo. …

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Salve (sahl-vai), is  a strange Italian word indeed.  It is a Latin word — no, it “does not come from” Latin, it actually is Latin! — whose use is attested in Italian in  all epochs. The linguists among you  may …

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How would you like to win a billion dollars? Magari! any Italian would certainly answer.  “Magari” (pronounced: mah-gah-ree) is a little popular word Italians use in a huge amount of occasions, but it’s not always easy to translate it literally. …

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Assaggiare (ah-ss-ah-djah-rai) is one delicious verb: it means to taste, or try out, food. You may be familiar with expressions like fammi assaggiare! (Let me try it!) or assaggia la pasta prima di scolarla (try the pasta before draining it), …

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Seize the opportunity, that’s what prendere la palla al balzo (prain-dai-rai lah pahl-lah ahl bahl-tsoh) means. Taken literally, it’s a way more fanciful expression in Italian than it is in English: “to catch the ball while it bounces up.”  And, …

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In Italy, there isn’t a word as typical of Summer as tormentone (tohr-mehn-toh-nai). Our dictionaries say the word, which comes from the verb tormentare (to torment, to plague) and began being used commonly in the early ‘80s.  Tormentone is something …

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Finding “boh”’s etymology can be tricky, because it’s not really a word in itself: “boh” it’s more of a sound, a way to emphasize a thought and a lack of interest in what we are saying or listening to. Indeed, if we really …

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Literally, come no (co-mai noh) means nothing. No, seriously: “like no.” That’s the literal meaning of the words. But in practice, it’s one common locution indeed, and also quite a refined one at that, because it can mean something, or …

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The thermometer reached unspeakable temperatures and Italy has been sweating hard. Watermelon sales sky rocketed: the ruby and green fruit is the ultimate Italian way to get rid of the heat. That, and air conditioning, of course. But, alas, il …

By Staff