Idiomatic phrases celebrate the colourful imagery of a language thus becoming a language within a language. Foreign expressions can be quite revealing as they give us some insights into the life, customs and beliefs of the people using this language.
Here are some Italians expressions that describe a Turk sitting crossed-legged on the floor, with a drink in one hand, a cigarette in the other, and with swear or curse words coming from his mouth: “Sedere alla Turca”(to sit like a Turk) i.e. “To sit cross-legged”; “Bere come un Turco” (to drink like a Turk) “ i.e.”To drink like a fish”; “Fumare come un Turco”( to smoke like a Turk) i.e. “To smoke like a chimney”, “Bestemmiare come un Turco” (to swear like a Turk) i.e, “To swear like a trooper.”
As mentioned in a previous article the letter H, pronounced acca, is one of the 21 letters of the Italian alphabet. What I find strange about this letter is that the beginning h is never pronounced and that the number of Italian words starting with h can be counted on one hand. H is mainly used together with c as in “che (what) pronounced as k, chiesa (church). No wonder the Italians say “Non vale un’acca”( it’s not worth an h) meaning “It’s worthless (useless)!”
Here are a few popular Italian expressions involving the number 4: “Non dire quattro se non l’hai nel sacco”(don’t say four unless you have it in the bag) which is equivalent to our “Don’t count your chickens before they’re hatched,” and while we say “I gave him a piece of my mind,” the Italians would say “Gliene ho dette quattro,”(I told him four); our English phrase “To raise hell or a stink”corresponds to “Fare il diavolo a quattro”, and while we like “To have a chat” the Italians love to “Fare quattro chiacchiere” (to have four words).
“Campa cavallo che l’erba cresce!” (live horse, as the grass will grow), this expression has a touch of irony as things won’t always go well as expressed by the corresponding English phrase “That’ll be the day!”. When somebody fails to achieve something the Italians say “Fare un buco nell’acqua” (to make a whole in the water) that is “To draw a blank.” The expression “Buona notte ai suonatori” (good night to the players)or “La festa è finita” (the party is over) are similar to “That’s that.”
l’oca (goose) is not considered too intelligent, hence “Non fare l’oca” means “Don’t be silly”and “Oca giuliva” i.e. “Silly goose”, nowadays is actually used to mean “Dumb blonde.” “ Non fare il coniglio” (don’t behave like a rabbit, that is don’t be timid or scared) is equivalent to our “Don’t chicken out.” /”L’ultimo ad arrivare fu Gambacorta”(the last to arrive was Shortleg) gives a better explanation of the delay than the English “Johnny come lately.”
Auguri! (Best wishes)