Them, the precious… words

Words, words, words… Beautiful or not so beautiful. Funny or aggressive ones. Words of greeting, dissatisfaction or gratitude; of joy, praise or offensive. Small or very large ones. In Italian as in any other language, they are countless and each one is precious in its own way. They teach us, cause us to reflect, change us. The power of words is unquestionable. They create, build and kill. They characterize a nation and go beyond its boundaries, they fly, and many times are adopted in foreign lands. In a way, it’s a nice surprise when our eyes catch something familiar in a faraway country as Rio de Janeiro. In Barra Shopping, a huge business center, we can find tasteful Italian words like Gelato Naturalmente Italiano.


In specific situations, it’s the knowledge of Portuguese that makes me smile. Personally, it happened to me when my eyes caught the sign of a bar in Venice: it read Bar XIXI. I really do not recommend it! Is it a Roman numeral XI XI (11-11) or (X+IX+I=20)? “Dunno!” Usually Roman numerals are not written like this. Maybe the owner has named it in this way knowing that it could be satirical or irreverent. Anyway, I could not help smiling at what would be called Bar Pee in Brazil, which would probably make an English speaker smile during a visit to said country. The same could also happen to an Italian after reading with perplexity “Fica* aberta 24 horas” (open 24 hours) in front of a pharmacy in Brazil. I wonder if any hesitation, however small, about the intentions of the charming pharmacist, would not cross his mind. What do you think? *fica = commonly used term to indicate female genitalia (pussy) 

Italian worldwide

Italian words and expressions are present everywhere in the world, and it’s not only the big Italian fashion brands. Surely, the words pizza, pasta, vino [wine] and gelato [ice-cream] have a huge diffusion. In China, for instance, we find Italian ice-cream business like ‘Le Creme di Milano’ that shows stamped on their shop windows “100% gelato italiano” written exactly like this. Also in the USA and in England the list goes on: ‘Caffè Opera’ and ‘Il Fornaio’ are only a small sample.


Brazil is also flooded with Italian words to the point of being able to say that an Italian in Rio de Janeiro would feel at home. He could find himself living in the apartment complex ‘Riviera dei Fiori’; having breakfast at ‘Quadrifoglio caffè’, shopping at ‘Città America’, eating lunch at ‘Fratelli’, having an ice-cream at ‘Bacio di Latte’, buying new clothes at ‘7Camicie’, ‘Tutto Bianco’ or ‘Via Veneto’, buying shoes at ‘Andarella’, and going for dinner at the ‘Fiammetta’ or ‘Pecorino’ restaurants, and after all that having fun at the ‘Dolce Vita’. In case he wants to see a football game on Sundays, it would be nice to go to the ‘Palestra Italia’ stadium in São Paulo to cheer Palmeiras, originally named Palestra Italia. In short, our visitor could easily go on from morning to evening with the illusion of being in the  tricolor peninsula. Besides being the official language of music, Italian has been shown as one of the most visible languages in the commercial sector.

Italian words: my favorites

Pizza, cappuccino and spaghetti are the most used words in the European Union as reported by the Società Dante Alighieri after an online poll. Casually or not, all of them belong to Italian cuisine. Others like dolce vita [sweet life] and espresso are also known and appreciated, having been selected by each of the 27 countries of the European Union (see the news on Il I also have my favorite Italian words. In addition of pizza and cappuccino, some are particularly special to me either for their sonority, meanings or even just because they bring back some memories.


”Arrivederci-socchiuso-ormai-allora-sconvolto” and expressions like “Per bacco!-Figurati!-Boh!-Bravo!-Mamma mia!-Porca miseria!-Ciao bella!” are part of the Italian’s common vocabulary.

Socchiuso‘ [half-open], it contains an aura of mystery waiting to be unveiled. The eyes half-open, what thoughts does it hide; the door half-open, what lies between the lights and shadows spotted beyond a half-open door? Yep, I’m curious and mystery entices me.
‘Ormai‘ [at this point], is a word of conclusion, of resignation; closes a story causing a little sadness or relief, depends on what was left behind.
‘Allora’ [So…] seems to be always asking for further explanation; it’s always wanting to know beyond that which has already being said.
‘Sconvolgere’ [disconcerting] there is nothing more appealing than an disconcerting smile or gaze; it’s nice being disconcerting in this way.

There are also the expressions:

‘Perbacco!’, so special to me because it brings me back to old memories, as well as putting me on the mood for some wine, Italian, of course!
What a beautiful expression is ‘figurati!’ [you’re welcome] when it comes from heart to mean: “helping you is a pleasure to me, it’s nice doing this for you, it’s fine, no problem at all!”.
‘Boh!’ is a small and significant one. These three letters enclose “I can’t understand”, “I have no idea” and also “I don’t care about this”.
And, ‘Bravo!’? How beautiful is this expression? Either when we say it or hear it, when we appreciate something somebody has done or vice versa, or even when we see the audience burst into applause after a performance. It’s wonderful!
‘Mamma mia!’, is by far the most Italian expression I’ve ever known, and nobody is able to say it like a native Italian speaker.
‘Porca miseria!’ [holy shit!] it brings me back memories of my grandmother saying it… Porca miseria! it’s already time to punt an end to this post, dinner needs to be prepared, you know!

Ciao belli!!! [bye!!!] ?
‘Arrivederci’? [See you?] ‘Arrivederci!!!!’…Oh gosh, l’ve missed it!
This is an expression of greeting between people who goes away with the hope of seeing each other again. It gains in expressiveness when said to a loved one who goes away for a long or uncertain period. In this way, it has the weight and strength of a goodbye and, for me, of ‘saudade’, a Portuguese expression that derives of ‘soledade’, loneliness. Saudade transcends a sense of nostalgia for someone’s departure, crosses the threshold of spirituality.

Speaking of the Portuguese language, it is nice when Italians, English or American people try, not without struggling, to speak a word or two of our vocabulary, to please us. The first attempt is frequently ‘saudade’ and most of time is the only one they know. Saudade is a magical word in Portuguese.

Ahhhh!… the roast!
Bye byeeee!!!!

bar-xixi-portuguese-words thermal-fountain-boiola
The Bar XIXI in Venice and the Thermal Fountain Boiola in Sirmione immediately catch the glance of a Brazilian visitor (native Portuguese speaker). In Brazilian Portuguese, XIXI means urine, and BOIOLA means gay, homosexual.

What are your favorite words?

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