Tag Archives: italian proverbs

“Blackbird Days”: Italy’s Distant Cousin to Groundhog Day

Does groundhog see his shadow?

Christmas holidays have come and gone, and by the end of January, many of us have had it with cold, gray, rainy or snowy weather. How much more of this and how much longer ’til spring? If you’re in the U.S., you might check in to find out whether the groundhog saw his shadow. In Italy, there’s a similar spring-predicting folklore, and it centers on the humble blackbird, who according to legend, started out white…


Prefer to read this post in English? Skip to the text in  green.

“Blackbird days”

I giorni della merla sono il 29, 30, e 31 di gennaio. Secondo la leggenda, se questi giorni sono freddi la primavera sarà bella, e se sono caldi la primavera arriverà tardi.  Questo è forse la cosa più vicina nel folclore italiano all’osservanza di Groundhog Day (2 febbraio) negli Stati Uniti, secondo la quale, se la marmotta (the groundhog) vede la sua ombra, l’inverno durerà altre sei settimane. Se invece non vede l’ombra la primavera è in arrivo.

January 29-30-31

“Blackbird days” are the 29th, 30th and 31st of January.  According to legend, if these days are cold, spring will be beautiful, and if they are warm, spring will arrive late.  This is perhaps the closest thing in Italian folklore to the observance of Groundhog Day (February 2nd) in the United States, according to which, if the groundhog sees its shadow, winter will last another six weeks.  If instead it doesn’t see its shadow, spring is on the way.

Merla, blackbird, was once white

La leggenda dei giorni della merla ha le sue radici nei tempi romani quando nel calendario il mese di gennaio ancora conteneva solo 28 giorni.  Secondo la storia, una merla, con uno splendido candido piumaggio, veniva regolarmente strapazzata da gennaio, mese freddo e ombroso, che si divertiva ad aspettare che lei uscisse dal nido in cerca di cibo, per gettare sulla terra freddo e gelo.

January casts bitter cold & snow

The legend of  “blackbird days” has its roots in Roman times when the calendar month of January still only contained 28 days.  According to the story, a blackbird, with her splendid, snow white plumage was usually thrown about by January, a cold and overcast month, who amused himself by waiting for her to leave her nest in search of food, and then casting bitter cold and frost onto the Earth.

Merla sings to mock January

Stanca delle continue persecuzioni, la merla un anno decise di fare provviste sufficienti per un mese, e si rinchiuse nella sua tana, al riparo, per tutto il mese di gennaio, che allora aveva solo ventotto giorni. L’ultimo giorno del mese, la merla, pensando di aver ingannato il cattivo gennaio, uscì dal nascondiglio e si mise a cantare per sbeffeggiarlo.

Tired of the ongoing harassment, one year the blackbird decided to gather enough provisions for a month and closed herself in her burrow, taking refuge for the entire month of January, which at the time had only 28 days.  The last day of the month, thinking to have outsmarted the wicked January, she left her hideaway and started singing to mock him.

January gets mad and borrows days from February

Gennaio se ne risentì così tanto che chiese in prestito tre giorni a febbraio (che allora aveva ancora 31 giorni) e si scatenò con bufere di neve, vento, gelo, e pioggia. La merla si rifugiò  in un camino e lì restò al riparo per tre giorni. Quando la merla uscì, era sì salva, ma il suo bel piumaggio si era annerito a causa del fumo e del fuliggine, e malgrado cercava di ripulirsi non ci riusciva.

Merla seeks refuge in a chimney

January took such great offense that he asked February (which then still had 31 days) for a loan of three days, and he went crazy with snow storms, wind, ice, and rain.  The blackbird took refuge in a chimney and there she stayed sheltered for three days.  When the blackbird came out, she was indeed safe, but her beautiful plumage had blackened from the smoke and soot, and despite her efforts to clean herself up, she wasn’t able.

Since then Merla’s feathers have been black

Il potente gennaio si godette la scena e poi disse con il suo vocione: “Che questo serva da lezione a voi e a tutti gli animali: non si scherza con le stagioni, con il freddo o con il clima. Non ci si può prendere gioco della Natura. Da oggi in poi io (gennaio) avrò 31 giorni e gli ultimi tre giorni saranno i più freddi dell’anno. Per ricordare a tutti questa storia, i merli porteranno per sempre queste piume nere”.

Blackbird Days proverb

Powerful January was amused by the scene, and then he said in his thundering voice, “ Let this serve as a lesson to you and to all the animals:  You don’t joke with the seasons, with the cold or with the climate.  You cannot mock Nature.  From today forward, I (January) will have 31 days, and the last three will be the coldest of the year.  To remind everyone of this story, the blackbirds will forever more bear black feathers.


Well, here where I live, the last three days of January were not very cold, so, I guess that means spring is still long way off… *sigh*. How about the weather where you are? Heard of the “Blackbird days” story before? What’s your take on animal and weather folklore?

Posted in Italian Customs, Italian Holidays, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

I giorni della merla / Days of the Blackbird, Groundhog’s Italian Cousin

[NB: This post is in Italian interspersed with the English translation.]

merla, giorni della3I giorni della merla sono il 29, 30, e 31 di gennaio. Secondo la leggenda, se questi giorni sono freddi la primavera sara` bella, e se sono caldi la primavera arrivera`tardi.  Questo e` forse la cosa piu` vicina nel folclore italiano all’osservanza di Groundhog Day  (2 febbraio) negli Stati Uniti, secondo la quale, se la marmotta (the groundhog) vede la sua ombra, l’inverno durera` altre sei settimane. Se invece non vede l’ombra la primavera e` in arrivo.

merla, giorni dellaThe days of the blackbird are the 29th, 30th and 31st of January.  According to the legend, if these days are cold, spring will be nice/ beautiful, and if they are warm, spring will arrive late.  This is perhaps the closest thing in Italian folklore to the observance of Groundhog Day (February 2nd) in the United States, according to which, if the groundhog sees its shadow, winter will last another six weeks.  If instead it doesn’t see its shadow, spring is on the way.

groundhogLa leggenda dei giorni della merla ha le sue radici nei tempi romani quando nel calendario il mese di gennaio ancora conteneva solo 28 giorni.  Secondo la storia, una merla, con uno splendido candido piumaggio, era regolarmente strapazzata da gennaio, mese freddo e ombroso, che si divertiva ad aspettare che lei uscisse dal nido in cerca di cibo, per gettare sulla terra freddo e gelo.

 

merla biancaThe legend of the days of the blackbird has its roots in Roman times when in the calendar the month of January still only contained 28 days.  According to the story, a blackbird, with her splendid, snow white plumage mistreated/overwrought by January, a cold and overcast month, who amused himself by waiting for her to leave her nest in search of food, and then casting bitter cold and frost onto the Earth.

sbeffeffiareStanca delle continue persecuzioni, la merla un anno decise di fare provviste sufficienti per un mese, e si rinchiuse nella sua tana, al riparo, per tutto il mese di gennaio, che allora aveva solo ventotto giorni. L’ultimo giorno del mese, la merla, pensando di aver ingannato il cattivo gennaio, uscì dal nascondiglio e si mise a cantare per sbeffeggiarlo.

Tired of the ongoing harassment, one year the blackbird decided to gather enough provisions for a month and closed herself in her nest-lair, taking refuge for the entire month of January, which at the time had only 28 days.  The last day of the month, thinking to have outsmarted the wicked January, she left her hideaway and started singing to mock him.

gennaio tira freddoGennaio se ne risentì così tanto che chiese in prestito tre giorni a febbraio (che allora aveva ancora 31 giorni) e si scatenò con bufere di neve, vento, gelo, e pioggia. La merla si rifugiò  in un camino e lì restò al riparo per tre giorni. Quando la merla uscì, era sì salva, ma il suo bel piumaggio si era annerito a causa del fumo e del fuliggine, e malgrado cercava di ripulirsi non ci riusciva.

January took such great offence that he asked February (which then still had 31 days) for a loan of three days, and he let rip with snow storms, wind, ice, and rain.  The blackbird merla in caminotook shelter in a chimney and there she stayed sheltered for three days.  When the blackbird came out, she was indeed safe, but her beautiful plumage had blackened from the smoke and soot, and despite her efforts to clean herself up, she wasn’t able.

Il potente gennaio si godette la scena e poi disse con il suo vocione: “Che questo serva da lezione a voi e a tutti gli animali: non si scherza con le stagioni, con il freddo o con il clima. Non ci si può prendere gioco della Natura. Da oggi in poi io (gennaio) avrò 31 giorni e gli ultimi tre giorni saranno i più freddi dell’anno. Per ricordare a tutti questa storia, i merli porteranno per sempre queste merla8piume nere”.

Powerful January was amused by the scene, and then he said in his thundering voice “ Let this serve as a lesson to you and to all the animals:  You don’t joke with the seasons, with the cold or with the climate.  You cannot make fun of/trifle with Nature.  From today forward, I (January) will have 31 days, and the last three will be the coldest of the year.  To remind everyone of this story, the merli (blackbirds) will forever more wear/bear these black feathers.

Auguri a tutti per dei giorni della merla caldi ed una primavera anticipata!  |  Best wishes to all for warm days of the blackbird and an early spring!

Have you heard of i giorni della merla before?  Know any  fables or other lore involving weather and animals?  Your comments always welcome!

Posted in Italian Proverbs, Italian Vocabulary, learn italian | Tagged , , , , , , , | 7 Comments

L’amore è nell’aria>>

Italian love phrases, proverbs & music

love is in the air -- heart-shaped hot air balloons in the sky

L'amore è nell'aria (Love is in the air)

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In onore della stagione d’amore e il giorno di San Valentino (in honor of the season of love and Valentine’s Day), dedico questa puntata del blog ad alcuni proverbi, frasi e una canzone d’amore italiani (I dedicate this blog post to a few Italian love proverbs, phrases and a song).

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To all my readers, romanticoni e non (‘big romantics’ and not), this Valentine is for you!

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Con affetto,

Jodina

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heart in cappuccino coffee

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Proverbi & Citazioni (Proverbs & Quotes)

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Listen & Practice Your Pronunciation


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  1. L’amore non conosce misura. (Love does not know measure. Similar to ‘love knows no limits.’)
  2. Il cuore è una ricchezza che non si vende e non si compra, ma si regala. (The heart is a ‘wealth’/treasure that is not sold or bought, but that is given.)
  3. Di tutte le arti maestro è l’amore. (Of all the arts, love is the master.)
  4. Amare significa correre con il cuore verso l’oggetto amato. Giovanni Paolo I (Love means to run with your heart toward the object of love.)
  5. L’amore è cieco, ma vede lontano. (Love is blind, but it sees far.)

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“L‘amore è nell’aria” (Love is in the Air) by Zucchero

I Testi (The Lyrics)

Non va’ via
Questa mia
Azzurra poesia
Non va’ via
In un mondo che non c’e’
Resta mia
Dentro giorni misteriosi…….
Non va’ via
L’amore e’ nell’aria
Sta con me
L’estate x te
Non va via
E’ l’amore che torna
In mia e tua sola compagnia!
Sta con me
Questa mia
Decente melodia
Sta con me
Dentro cattedrali di luce
Non va via
L’amore e’ nell’aria
Sta con te
Sorella d’estate
Non va’ via
E’ l’amore che torna
X me, x te, a farci compagnia!
She’s coming
She’s coming
Yeah she’s coming
Se ti ascolti capirai…che
Non va via
L’amore e’ nell’aria
Sta con me
L’estate x te
Non va’ via
E’ l’amore che torna
Non va’ + via
L’amore e’ nell’aria
X me, x te, a farci compagnia
Sta con me
Non va’ via…non va’ via!.


valentine's day card.


And now, some Frasi d’amore italiane (Italian Love phrases) you can use to woo your valentine…

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  1. • Buon San Valentino (Happy Valentine’s Day)
  2. • Ti amo. (I love you. Used only for romantic love.)
  3. • Ti adoro. (I adore you.)
  4. • Amore mio (My love, my beloved)
  5. • Tesoro mio (My treasure)
  6. • Ti voglio bene. (I love/care about you. Used for all types of relationships: family, friends, lovers.)
  7. I tuoi occhi brillano come le stelle. (Your eyes shine like stars.)
  8. • Sei bella come una rosa. (You are as beautiful as a rose.)
  9. • Per sempre (Forever)
  10. • Per sempre tua/o (Forever yours)
  11. • Sono pazza/o di te. (I’m crazy for you.)
  12. • Anima mia (My soul)
  13. • Sei incredibile. (You’re incredible.)
  14. • Sei bellissima/o. (You’re beautiful.)
  15. • Sei un dono. (You are a gift.)
  16. • Sei stupenda/o. (You’re fantastic.)

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Now that you know what to say, send an Italian card from Kisseo online Italian cards, but before you go, show me some love, and leave a comment below letting me know you liked this post.

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Grazie, siete fantastici!  Buon San Valentino!

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happy valentines day!
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Posted in Expressions, Italian Holidays, Italian Music, Italian Proverbs, Italian Vocabulary, Sayings, Uncategorized, Vocaboli Italiai | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Italian Saying

Detto italiano:

“Hai voluto la biciletta?

Adesso pedala!”

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This week’s detto italiano (Italian saying) is “Hai voluto la bicicletta? Adesso pedala!” In English this translates to: “You wanted the bicycle? Now pedal!” It refers to a situation where someone was dreaming of or striving for some goal or outcome, and once obtained s/he finds her/himself dealing with all it entails – good, bad, overwhelming, or challenging as it may be.

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feet pedaling, piedi che pedalano.

[Note:  English translations follow passages in Italian.]

Nel caso di una persona che desidera viaggiare spesso e poi comincia di avere l’opportunita di fare tale, ma ora si lamenta di patire il jet lag e che le linee aeree l’hanno smarrito i bagagli, (In the case of someone who desires to travel frequently, and when s/he begins to have the opportunity to do that, complains of suffering from jet lag and the airlines losing their luggage) a friend might say to that person, “Hai voluto la bicicletta? Adesso pedala!  You wanted to travel, this comes with the territory!

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AUDIO CLIP – LISTEN & PRACTICE YOUR PRONUNCIATION

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movie theater, cinema, Paradiso Theatre

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Another example might be someone like me — who wanted to do this little movie thing, and it turned out to be a really big movie thing. I just wanted a place to show Italian movies and invite others to see them also.  Then I find a place, and it goes so well I need a bigger place. Scramble, scramble to find one, and I learn lots in a really short amount of time… about renting spaces and promoting (pause for breath).  Mind you, I’m not complaining, perchè ho voluto la bicicletta — adesso pedalo!  (I wanted the bike [aka a place to show movies and invite people], now I pedal! [do what it takes to make it happen.])

Italian Movie Nights

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bed, letto

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The closest English expression is, “You’ve made your bed. Now lie in it.”, meaning you made a decision, or you created a situation, and now you must accept its consequences. Or, said more colloquially, you wanted what you wanted, you got it, and now you have to take everything that comes with it. (Hai voluto ciò che hai voluto, ora devi accettare tutto che esso ne coinvolge.)

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Altri esempi di casi in cui questo detto si potrebbe usare: (Other examples of cases in which this expression could be used)

  • Qualcuno che ha voluto la grande carriera e ora si sta lamentando di dover lavorare troppo. (Someone who wanted a big career and is now complaining about being overworked.)
  • Qualcuno che ha voluto mettere su una grande famiglia e ora si sta lamentando di non avere mai del tempo libero. (Someone who wanted a big family and is now complaining about never having any free time.)
  • Qualcuno che ha voluto la casa grande e ora si trova inondato di troppi lavori di casa, di giardino ed un grande pagamento del mutuo. (Someone who wanted a big house and now finds themselves with too much housework, yard work, and big mortgage bills.)

sled, slitta

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Doing a bit of digging, I found a Russian proverb with the same essential sense:  “Ti e` piaciuto scendere in slittino? Ora lo deve tirare su!” (Did you like going down on the sled?  Now you have to pull it up!)

To me, it seems like as much a piece of sage advice as a common-sense observation that appears across various cultures. If you want something because it’s enjoyable, in order to have it, you also have to accept the part that’s a little more like work, or less desirable.

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sled going uphill, slitta in salita

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How about you, can you think of any situations in which you could practice saying “Hai voluto la bicicletta?  Adesso pedala!” I’d love to hear about them below.

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Posted in Expressions, Italian Proverbs, Sayings, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

“Non dire gatto…”

Italian Saying of the Week:

Il detto della settimana


Presenting Maxie the Moxie Cat, official Italiano With Jodina website mascot.

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(Note: English translation follows.)

Allora, il detto di questa settimana è quanto utile che divertente. Poi è anche il veicolo perfetto per presentare Maxie the Moxie Cat, la mascotte officiale del sito Italiano With Jodina. (So then, the saying this week is as useful as it is fun.  And (Then), it’s also a perfect vehicle for presenting Maxie the Moxie Cat, the official Italiano With Jodina website mascot.

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The detto is

Non dire gatto se non ce l’hai nel sacco,” which translates to “Don’t say cat if you don’t have it in the sack.”

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Now, you might be asking yourself  “che cavolo vuol dire?” (What the heck, or literally, what the ‘cabbage’ does it mean?)

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It’s a bit of prudent advice, but first let’s check out the pronunciation:

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LISTEN & PRACTICE:

“Non dire gatto se non ce l’hai nel sacco.”

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SPIEGAZIONE (EXPLANATION)

Questo detto invita alla prudenza, a non strafare e a non dire di poter fare o di avere una cosa, se ancora non è sicuro.  (This saying invites one to be prudent, to not overdo it and not to say you can do or have something until it’s for sure.)

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Significa anche se stai per raggiungere un obiettivo, sei quasi al traguardo, pero non ancora al traguardo, non cantar vittoria. (It also means that if you’re about to reach a goal, you’re almost at the finish line, but not yet there, don’t ‘sing victory’.)

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bear, orso

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Un altro detto simile è “non vendere la pelle dell’orso se non l’hai ancora preso”.  (Another similar saying is “don’t sell the bear skin if you haven’t caught the bear yet.”)  Probably the closest expression in English is “Don’t count your chickens before they hatch.”

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don't count your chickens until they hatch

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Ora una parola da Maxie the Moxie Cat (Now a  word from Maxie):

“Poveri animali! Il gatto nel sacco e la pelle d’orso venduta — uffa!”

“Comunque sia, noi gatti siamo furbi, nel sacco ci andremo se abbiamo voglia noi… altrimenti te lo puoi scordare e in bocca al lupo a te!”

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(“Poor animals!  The cat in the sack and the bearskin sold — uffa!”

Anyway, we cats are clever, into the sack we’ll go if we want to… otherwise you can forget about it and into the wolf’s mouth/good luck to you!”)

Read here about the saying “in bocca al lupo”.

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Got any favorite animal expressions? Love to hear about it below!

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Italian Saying:

Il detto della settimana:

“Far venire il latte ai gomiti”


Salve bellissimi!

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The last two proverbs have been encouraging and inspirational, so this week it’s time for a little humor.

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This week’s Italian saying in its ‘raw’ or unconjugated form is “fare venire il latte ai gomiti.”

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Used as a sentence it could be

“Mi fai venire il latte ai gomiti.”

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Milk? Elbows? What? When I first heard this from my friend Anna, I said ma che cosa vuol dire?! (but what does it mean?!) Like many frasi idiomatiche (idiomatic expressions), what it says and what it means are two different things.

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Anna mi ha spiegato (Anna explained to me) that you’d use it when someone is annoying you or boring you to tears (probably the closest expression in English).

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Ma perche ‘il latte ai gomiti’, che centra il latte? (But why ‘milk to the elbows’, what’s milk got to do with anything?)

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Well, according to Anna, you have to imagine how annoyed/bored/frustrated you’d feel waiting for a drop of milk to drip from your mouth all the way down to your elbow… and when someone makes you feel that way, that’s when you say (perhaps prefaced with an ‘uffa’, which is not really a word but a sound of frustration)…

Mi fai venire il latte ai gomiti!

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Listen & practice your pronunciation:

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I did a little snooping around and found out more about this crazy detto. Originally it was far venire il latte alle ginocchia, (ginocchia means knees).

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Both versions are used, and it seems like the closest expression in English is to “bore someone to tears/to death”.

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Here’s another explanation:


In italiano, si usa quando qualcosa ci annoia da morire, ci infastidisce o ci rende insofferenti. (In Italian, it is used when something bores us to death, bothers us, or makes us irritable.)

Example: “Questo politico mi fa venire il latte alle ginocchia.” (This politician bores me to tears/to death.)

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Have you ever heard this expression?  Do you know of any other sayings with latte or gomito?

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Italian Proverb:

Il Detto della settimana:

“A goccia a goccia si scava la roccia.”

drop of water


Ecco il detto di questa settimana:  {Here’s this week’s saying.}

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“A goccia a goccia si scava la roccia.”

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Listen to pronunciation:

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Translation: Drop by drop, rock is eroded.

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Spiegazione (Explanation, a translation follows):
Questo detto italiano è una metafora: L’acqua, che è una sostanza “molle” non può intaccare la pietra che invece è dura e resistente. Ma cadendo goccia dopo goccia, l’acqua riesce, nel tempo, a scavarla!

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Il senso del proverbio è che con la perseveranza si ottengono risultati all’inizio inimmaginabili.

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Un altro modo di dire questo è che con la costanza, indipendentemente dagli ostacoli, si cambiano le cose.

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rock eroded by water

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Translation:

This Italian saying is a metaphor: Water, which is a “soft” substance, cannot nick rock, which instead is hard and resists. But falling drop after drop, water, in time, succeeds in eroding it!

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The sense of the proverb is that with perseverance we can achieve results that at the beginning are unimaginable.

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Another way to say this is that with steadfastness, regardless of obstacles, things can be changed.

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This saying comes from the Latin proverb “Gutta cavat lapidem”, (“Drop erodes stone”).

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I challenge you to memorize this week’s phrase. Take me up on this, and treat yourself to a sense of accomplishment!

With perseverance, everything is possible!

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Do you have any favorite Italian proverbs you’d like to share?

I’d love to hear them — leave a comment below!

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Italian Proverb:

Il Detto della domenica:

“Chi dorme non piglia pesci.”

Proverbs, sayings, and idiomatic expressions are a rich way to learn new words and gain insight into the colloquial side of a language. Italian, like other languages, has a wealth of these enlightening expressions — some wise and others witty.

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Because they are usually brief, they can be almost like a mini lesson in themselves.
I challenge you to memorize this week’s phrase. Take me up on this, and treat yourself to a sense of accomplishment!

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fisherman sleeping on fish


Ecco il detto di questa domenica:

(Here’s the saying for this Sunday.)

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“Chi dorme non piglia pesci.”

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LISTEN TO PRONUNCIATION:

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SPEIGAZIONE (EXPLANATION):

Literally translated this phrase in English is “He who who sleeps doesn’t catch fish.”

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Metaphorically of course, this proverb refers to opportunities missed (fish not caught) because one is some other non-productive activity (such as sleeping).

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The closest English equivalent is the saying “You snooze, you lose.”

The message in “Chi dorme non piglia pesci is also echoed in the English proverb, “The early bird gets the worm.”

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“Chi dorme non piglia pesci è un buon detto per l’autunno quando tutti stanno ritornando a scuola e hanno nuovi impegni. È  anche un buon ricordo di quanto importante è di puntare la sveglia ed andare a dormire presto!

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(“He who sleeps doesn’t catch fish” is a good saying for autumn when everyone is returning to school and has new tasks and commitments. It’s also a good reminder of how important it is to set your alarm clock and get to sleep early!)

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Buoni studi, sogni d’oro, e buona pesca!

(Good studying, sweet dreams, and good fishing!)

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What’s an Italian or English proverb that you like?

I’d love to hear it — leave a comment below!

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Italian Idiom of the Week–In bocca al lupo!


Salve!

Ecco la frase idiomatica della settimana = Here’s your weekly Italian Idiom, brought to you by Italiano With Jodina:

In bocca al lupo!

Literally, this means “in the wolf’s mouth” and is used to wish someone luck, as with “buona fortuna.”  In bocca al lupo is similar to the expression, “Break a leg,” except that it’s used in any situation, not just in acting or performance settings.

There is also a response sometimes used when someone tells you “in bocca al lupo,” and that is, “crepi il lupo” — literally meaning “may the wolf kick the bucket.” It would be like saying, “Yes, when I put my head in the wolf’s mouth, may it drop dead” (rather than biting my head off!) . . . a metaphor for coming out on top in the face of a difficult or challenging situation.

Have a great week, and in bocca al lupo!

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