Saturday, December 10, 2011

Humour of Italian Idioms

There is no doubt that the proper use of idioms will render a conversation more colourful and interesting. As the saying goes : “A picture is worth a thousand words”. The picture above represents the sign of the horns (corna), a gesture quite popular among Italians. If you would like to try it you need to extend  the index and the little finger (also called pinky in American English) while keeping the middle and ring fingers, together with your thumb, down into your palm.  Here are the different meanings of “fare le corna” (to make horns):
1.      Superstition, when facing an unfortunate event a nd you like to avoid this fate you would make the sign of the horns, hoping to ward off bad luck.
2.      Infidelity, when the horns are pointed at a person who is being cheated by his wife., thus making him a”Cornuto” (Cuckold in English).
Let’s continue with these metaphorical phrases which add a seasoning of humour to a discourse:”Fortunato come un cane in chiesa”(lucky as a dog in church) which means exactly the opposite (unlucky) because dogs are not allowed in church. The corresponding English expression would be “As poor as a church-mouse”, as there is hardly any food in church.
Italians, with their gestures, jokes and with an alphabet of 21 letters “have created a language that caresses and whines and bellows like no other”, as described by Suzanne Brock. If Italians leave you with the impression that they talk too fast I believe it’s due to the overabundance of vowels which are usually stressed. In fact the Italian language is called “lingua vocalic”(language of vowels). Although some words have more than one meaning it’s really astonishing to find out that the word nipote has six  different meanings:
grandson,   granddaughter, brother’s son,  sister’s son,  brother’s daughter, sister’s daughter. Is that  an easy way to sort them all out?
There is no lack of eccentricities in the Italian language.
To say “It’s out of this world!”the Italians would say “È la fine del mondo!”(It’s the end of the world). An Italian Big Shot”is called “Un pezzo grosso”(a big piece). For us it’s good enough to say”Put yourself in someone else’s shoes,” while the Italians go a little deeper by saying “Mettersi nei panni degli altri”(to put yourself in someone’s clothes). Italians call each other “Testa di rapa,” (turnip head) when they use a polite phrase. To make a compliment to a short person they would say “La botte piccola fa buon vino,”(the small barrel makes good wine). If in a conversation you were to say something very obvious you will be told that “Hai scoperto l’America”, (you've discovered America) which is not too courteous. Italians call each other “Testa di rapa” (turnip head) for (blockhead). We say “Deep down”, an Italian would say “Sotto sotto”, (under under). “Essere come pane e formaggio” (to be like bread and cheese) is not an invitation to lunch as this is used for “To be  hand in glove.”