Expression of the Day: Me ne frego

Me ne frego (meh neh freh-goh) is a popular expression in Italian, that can be translated in English  with  “I  don’t care” but  also with the more incisive “I don’t give a damn.” 

 

Etymologically, it comes from the verb fregare, to rub, which in turn comes from the  Latin fricare. Now, me ne frego really doesn’t have anything to do with fregare, but  it’s interesting to note that  it’s sometimes perceived as vulgar, especially in certain registers, because the Latin fricare was also used by our glorious Roman ancestors as slang in reference to being intimate with someone

 

Depending on the context  in which it’s uttered, me ne frego can both indicate the speaker’s intention not to compromise on something, indifference towards the subject discussed or even an attitude, that  of someone who cares chiefly about their own well being. 

 

In Italy, we use it  a lot in expressions such as che me ne frega, which is a more colloquial version of che me ne importa, both of them translatable with “why would I care.”

 

Me ne frego is an interesting expression also from a historical point of view. It was adopted by the Arditi, a special élite force of the Italian army during the First World War, as one of their mottos; then by Decadent  poet Gabriele d’Annunzio and the soldiers he led to Fiume and, finally, by Mussolini’s Camicie Nere during the Fascist era. 

 

Today, most Italians don’t remember —nor know, probably — neither about the saucy nor about  the historical connotations of  me ne frego: we use it all the time. But it’s always better to avoid it if you’re using a more elegant, formal language register. 

Onestamente, della tua opinione me ne frego. 

Honestly, I  don’t give a damn about  your opinion. 

Me ne frego di essere  a dieta, dammi una fetta di torta!

I don’t care I’m on a diet. Give  me a slice of  cake!

Che me ne frega di loro. Io faccio quel che voglio.

Why would I care about them. I’ll do what I want.

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