Have you ever been inside an Italian home? Well, it is probably pretty much like yours, except everything is in Italian!
As usual, we’re here to help: check out our new infographic about Italian words for rooms, forniture and all the thing you can find inside a proper house!
Although Italy is officially a work-based secular state, Italian language and culture are scattered with open references to the Judaic and Christian traditions. The Bible itself, having been the one and only source of education for centuries, seems to be a neverending source of idioms and forms of speech. Even without embracing any particular confession, we thought it would be a good idea to collect 13 of the most common idioms taken from the Book of Books.
1. Fare da capro espiatorio (to be a scapegoat).
We tried to start with an easy one since this form of speech is also present in English and in many other Indo-European languages (Benjamin Malaussene, anyone?). The expression comes directly from the Jewish tradition, mentioned in Leviticus 9:15, of sacrificing a goat as a ritual of purification during the Yom Kippur. Passing from the original meaning to the modern one of being a person unfairly blamed for some misfortune doesn’t require too much effort.
Manna (or Mana) was an edible substance that, according to the Bible (Exodus 16:1-36 and Numbers 11:1-9) and the Quran, God provided for the Israelites during their travels in the desert.
This image is so deeply rooted in the Italian language that one could actually use this expression to cheer up when something good (and yet unexpected) happens: è proprio una manna dal cielo!
3. Occhio per occhio, dente per dente (eye for an eye).
This very common expression is a direct reference to the law of retaliation (legge del taglione in Italian), the principle that a person who has injured another person is to be penalized to a similar degree. In a wider sense, this expression is used whenever one is seeking some form of revenge.
4. Seminare zizzania (to drive a wedge, to sow discord).
This one comes from the Gospel of Matthew, in which we can find the Parable of the Tares (Parabola della zizzania). Tares is actually darnel, a type of grass\weed that ruins crops, and it is used here as a metaphor for the struggle between the spiritual children of Christ (the good seeds) and the unbelievers (the tares).
5. Vendersi per un piatto di lenticchie (to sell yourself for a mess of pottage).
In the Book of Genesis 25:29-34 we find the two sons of Isaac, Esau and Jacob. The latter, one day, offered his brother the sale of his birthright in exchange for a lentil soup. The expression is often used to describe the action of giving away something of profound value for goods of derisory nature.
6. Restare di sale (to be flabbergasted).
Again in the Book of Genesis 19:1-26 is told the dramatic story of Sodom and Gomorrah, destroyed by God for being consumed by vice and idolatry. The expression makes reference to the fate of Lot’s wife, who was told not to look back while escaping from the cities. The woman disobeyed and was turned into a pillar of salt. The idiom is currently use to express disbelief or surprise (“alla notizia, sono rimasto di sale!”).
7. Gigante dai piedi d’argilla (giant with clay feet).
This expression comes from the Book of Daniel in which the prophet tells about the dream of King Nabucodonosor: a giant statue with golden head, silver chest, bronze legs and, as a matter of fact, clay feet. Today this form of speech is a metaphor for something huge (such as a corporation or a party) which does not have steady foundations.
8. Essere il beniamino (to be the favourite).
Beniamino (Benjamin) was Jacob’s last and favourite son. Therefore, in Italian, essere un beniamino means being someone’s pupil: a very good football player can be il beniamino dei tifosi, or a famous actor can be il beniamino del pubblico and so on.
9. Niente di nuovo sotto il Sole (nothing new under the Sun).
One of the most poetic and intense books of the Old Testament, the Book of Qoelet (1:9) is responsible for this sometimes abused quote (nihil sub sole novum in latin), which is used to indicate an unchanging (and unchangeable) situation.
10. Servire due padroni (to be a two-timer).
Although brought to fame by playwright Carlo Goldoni and his Arlecchino, this expression comes from the Gospel of Luke (16:13): “One cannot serve two masters, nor two mistresses”. The meaning is clear: the idiom is used as a reference to a double-crosser, a two-timer.
11. Gettare le perle ai porci (casting pearls before swine).
We find this expression in Matthew 7:6, meaning “to give things of value to those who will not understand or appreciate it”.
12. Muoia Sansone con tutti i Filistei (let Samson die with the Philistines).
The Book of the Judges (16:18-21; 28-30) tells the story of Samson, an Israelite judge who performed feats of strength against the Philistines but was betrayed by Delilah, his mistress. Blinded by revenge, Samson decided to destroy Philistines temple with his bare hands, although he knew he would die too. The idiom is often used in reference to someone who doesn’t hesitate to harm him or herself if it helps hurting others.
13. Essere un Giuda (to be a Judas).
The figure of Judas is commonly used (not exclusively but very widely in the Italian language) to indicate a traitor. Along with his name, the expression per trenta denari (for 30 pieces of silver) indicating the amount of money earned by Judas to betray Jesus Christ, is often used.
So this was our list, but please feel free to integrate it and suggest new idioms in the comments!
To honor to my sixth month here in Rome (which sadly will be also my last) I would like to share with you today some VERY informal thoughts on what I learned in Italy. I will take you back to 11 August 2016, the day I arrived here in the beautiful Rome. The sun was shining and it was a summer day like all others in Italy so the streets of Rome were full of Romans (surprise! They don’t go on vacation that much: Rome is a really busy town), which brings us to the first thing you should learn in Italy:
- it’s REALLY important to learn the language and make an effort to practice it on the streets and in stores with locals. Not everyone is able to speak English and, as you will figure out, a lot of things are only available in Italian, although, especially in the city center, you will find amusing examples of broken English. For that purpose, certain internet pages packed with Italian Language lessons and exercises are a blessing. Or you can always do it the old fashioned way and learn Italian by joining an Italian Language Course (as I did, and my Italian is so good that I am still writing articles in English! :P).
Being installed in my new home for this six months, I had to go out for grocery shopping, which I know is not the most fashionable shopping you can do but it has to be done. Anyway, this brings us to the second thing I learned:
- when in Italy, you should get to know your local Italian cuisine – because no, there isn’t just ONE Italian cuisine. Not all of the food that you are familiar with in your home country will be available in the supermarkets, that’s why it is important to learn how to cook with the food that is available in Italy. The Italian cuisine is more than only pasta or pizza: make the best out of it and join an Italian Cooking Class where you will also be able to practice Italian and make new friends which share with you the disgrace of being totally incompetent in preparing a decent Italian dish.
Last but not last there is the thing that I enjoyed the most here:
- learn how to appreciate Italian culture. It’s maybe quite different from yours and it the difference can be disorienting at first but, believe me, these people really know how to live. The culture of having an aperitivo after work with your friends, enjoying a good meal for (at least) a couple of hours, having a walk through the city center or just spending your afternoon while doing nothing and drinking espresso should be included in the world heritage list. The Italian culture is about the importance of family and friends in your life and that’s what will make your new Italian friends the unforgettable ones. Or, at least, this is what happened to me!
Arrivederci Roma, alla prossima avventura! xoxoxo
Our glorious season of infographics about the Italian language couldn’t be complete without presenting at least some of the most used Italian words regarding winter holidays and Christmas!
Enjoy and… buone feste da Kappa Language School!
For centuries Rome has been the capital of the Roman Empire, impressing people from all over the world with its magnificence and its stunning melting pot of cultures and artistic styles. When you visit Rome you should make sure to admire at least a spark of this art and make some time to travel back in history. There are so many archeological sites worthy to be seen in Rome, and some of them are so famous that they don’t really need any introduction. This is why we will try to advise you with three very peculiar landmarks in which archeology and modern technology work together in creating a unique and unforgettable experience.
1. Palazzo Valentini
Palazzo Valentini is the place where archaeologists found a miracle. Beneath this beautiful house, which you can see from the street, archaeological remains of ancient Roman houses were found. These remains were discovered far under the street level, but the staff of Palazzo Valentini makes it now possible for you to visit this sheer piece of ancient beauty. Deep under the ground with a fully audio-visual light show you will see a complete reconstruction of all the remains underneath the Palazzo Valentini. It’s a fully guided tour in the dark, which can be taken in English, Italian (and this would be the best option, so start learning Italian!), German, Spanish and French.
How to reach: By walk from Piazza Venezia
2. L’Ara com’era
Every Friday and Saturday, after 8:30pm, you will be able to experience the solemn and breath-taking atmosphere of the Ara Pacis as it was in the period of its construction. With the help of augmented reality you will travel in time and see colors and images lost in the centuries and now recovered in this amazing interactive exhibition.
How to reach: By walk from Piazza Venezia
3. Viaggio nei Fori
Viaggio nei Fori is a fully audiovisual experience where you can see how the Roman Forum was at the time of the Roman Empire. The Forums are the same as you can see by day, but the dark and the audiovisual experience give you the chance to transcend the mere touristic point of view and experience shapes and colors of the Forum that once was. You have two options: going to the Forum of August, which can be only seen while seating on a big stand, or visiting the Forum of Caesar, which can be discovered by walking through it. Both of the Forums are very interesting and are perfectly animated so you get a realistic view on how they looked like in the time of the Roman Empire.
How to reach: By walk from Piazza Venezia
We all know italian cuisine is a world recognized excellence… but to efficiently cook italian dishes you also need the proper italian words!
Here’s a quick help from our team: an infographic containing most of the italian vocabulary you can find in your kitchen. Enjoy and share!
E’ quello che abbiamo chiesto ai nostri studenti di Italiano di livello B2, sperando che loro notassero aspetti della cultura italiana che noi nativi, anestetizzati dalla routine culturale, non siamo più in grado di evidenziare. Le risposte, a volte, sono sorprendenti! 😀
Dell’Italia mi hanno colpito tante cose. Ho visto che la gente si salutava con i baci, anche fra maschi e fra femmine.
L’altra cosa è quando ho visto il traffico, le persone non sono gentili. Non hanno pazienza, suonano il clacson e sempre usano il cellulare quando guidano.
La terza cosa che mi ha colpito è il cibo. Prima di venire in Italia non avevo mai visto così tanti tipi di formaggi e affettati freschi. E’ proprio vero che il cibo italiano è buonissimo come si dice nel mondo.
Una cosa che mi ha colpito durante il mio soggiorno in Italia è il suono “boh” che a quanto pare è veramente fondamentale nel discorso italiano. Ho cercato una definizione su internet e risulta che la traduzione più semplice all’italiano “ufficiale” sarebbe: “non lo so”. Mi sembra un’espressione divertentissima e unica.
Una cosa strana è quando l’inverno le donne italiane mettono sopra il cappotto pesante e sotto mettono le calze leggere. Per me questa abitudine è strana, perché se hai freddo dovresti mettere i vestiti pesanti sia sopra che sotto.
Un’altra cosa che mi ha colpito molto è il saluto, perché [gli italiani] si baciano per salutare, sia la donna che l’uomo. Questa abitudine per noi cinesi è un po’ strana: i cinesi si stringono la mano.
Jing Xing (Cina)
Una cosa che mi ha colpito quando sono venuta in Italia è vedere i belli campi di girasole in Toscane. Il bel paesaggio lì è veramente qualcosa di particolare e stupendo, mai visto.