Word of the Day

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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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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Macché (mahk-kai) is a  word you may not hear as often as sì and no, but when you do, rest assured that what speakers are talking about doesn’t make them happy one bit. It is formed by the union of …

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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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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 …

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We all know a guastafeste. Actually, we may even have been one, sometimes in our lives.   Guastafeste has a relatively straight forward etymology: it is formed by the verb guastare (to spoil, to ruin) and feste the plural of festa (party). So, literally a guastafeste is someone who breaks the mood at a party and, by extension, anyone who does or says something to spoil atmosphere or situations.  Guastafeste is someone who ruins your incredible plans for a weekend spent watching Netflix and eating peanut butter ice cream, by reminding you that your boss anticipated the deadline for that heinous work project to Monday morning, and you still have everything to prepare. Thinking about  it, your boss is a guastafeste, too, in this scenario: actually, he — or she — is the biggest of them all!  However, guastafeste is also someone that brings you back to reality when you dream too much: just like that time you decided to move to Paris …

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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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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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Sopra la panca la capra campa, sotto la panca la capra crepa*! There, that’s a scioglilingua.  Scioglilingua is a bit of pronunciation conundrum in itself, as it’s not that simple to pronounce, either: it comes from the  word sciogliere — …

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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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