Over the last few months I’ve shared some interesting things Italians do that seem, well … funny to me. From offering us fruit from our own tree to cutting tree limbs from beneath their children, the Italians I live among seem to keep me on my toes.

And it is a good thing.

I like surprises.

But sometimes it isn’t so much what they do that captivates my interest, but what they say … or even, how they say it. In keeping with the “three things” theme, here are three things Italians say that are down right funny to me!

1. Longtime readers might remember the never-ending saga of the Calabrese father-in law and the girl who wouldn’t eat and although I haven’t written about my suocero lately, you can bet he hasn’t let up.

Poverino has convinced himself that if I don’t eat a bowl of pasta followed with a healthy serving of chicken or beef, topped off with fresh fruit that I might not make it through the night. This isn’t a joke.

He seriously believes this.

In fact, he believes it so much that he lamented to his sister, who in turn called me and asked me to eat more “so he won’t worry.” She ended her appeal with the guilt-inducing plea of, “he even prays for you to eat! You just have to.”

Although the good little people-pleaser I am would love to alleviate my father-in-law’s stress, my jeans ain’t getting any loser … ya know what I mean? But finally, it seems he has turned his attention to someone else.

Yesterday, when my husband only accepted a bowl of soup for lunch and didn’t follow up with chicken, or turkey or whatever other poultry dear old Dad had in the pot, he muttered, “Chi va con lo zoppo, impara a zoppicare.”

Or rather, “If you walk with someone who limps, you start to limp.”

It didn’t take a master translator to get the jab, especially when he followed it up with a mini growl and scowl pointed in my direction.

2. But I shouldn’t be surprised. My father-in-law is full of funny sayings and odd-ball remarks … or maybe it is just the Italian language translations that get me.

Last month we found ourselves in yet another torrential downpour here in Bella Calabria. Upon looking out of the rain-streaked windows, he said, “Questo tempo …,” followed with a little grunt. “Il tempo è bastardo!”

Apparently it was just funny to me because everyone looked at me strangely when I laughed. But come on, English speakers, it is odd to call the weather a bastard because it won’t stop raining, right? Right?

3. Luckily for me, odd-sounding translations are fun in reverse, too.

On March 13, exactly one month from the day my dad passed away, I found my first gray strand. I yanked that hideous hair from my head quicker than a mouse could eat his mozzarella and immediately handed it over to my husband for inspection.

“Yep,” he announced. “It is gray. But don’t worry, it can’t be yours … it is too short.”

“That is because it was from my bangs!” I screamed frantically.

“Don’t worry,” he told me reassuringly. “When you get gray hairs you paint them. Women just paint them and then they go away.”

Ahh, if it were only that simple.

Have you heard any funny sayings in Italian lately? Heard anything funny in any other languages? Please share.

16 Responses
  1. Cherrye, you have got to write a book about your father-in-law! He’s hilarious!! My father-in-law isn’t worried about my eating habits. One time over lunch he told everyone, “La Linda sembra che non mangi ma pian piano finisce tutto”. Molto piano. I am the slowest eater ever!
    I told him what you said at lunch and he wasn’t thrilled with the idea of being the topic of a full-length book. In fact, I don’t think he liked being on the blog! lol He shouldn’t be that funny then, I say! 😉

  2. joanne at frutto della passione

    My favourite is *Conosco i miei polli* and I love translating it into English! I know my chickens!!!
    Oh me, too. I had forgotten about that one!!

  3. maryann

    I love your posts about funny things Italians say. I hope you keep doing them regularly.
    I’m with your FIL! Eat! Mangia! It will make you feel better! LOL
    Seriously. It’s funny, the ties you make to bloggers you don’t even know. I’ve thought about you a lot and I’m hoping you are doing ok.
    Thank you, Maryann. It is funny how the blogosphere has introduced so many people who really do seem to care about each other. Gotta love that! And btw, I would expect a fine chef, such as yourself to agree with my FIL. Bah humbug!
    maryann’s last blog post.."The Whole World Is Irish"

  4. That is hilarious about your father in law. Can’t he see you’re a tiny thing and can only eat so much?! And I know you’re not just pushing salad leaves around on your plate, you’re enjoying to a healthy extent. But to their eyes, it’s just not enough. The funny part is about you then leading Peppe down the road of your sinful ways . . . his son being led astray by the evil American.

    tee hee!
    You are right, I don’t just eat lettuce. I would make myself sick if I ate everything he wanted me to eat. And it is lol funny that he blames me for Peppe eating less! Love it.
    Kim B.’s last blog post..A Funny Turn of Events

  5. Ah… I understand number one! It is strange that the quantity of food one eats seems somehow to reflect qualities of character. Or, perhaps not the quantity, but the way one enjoys it. But you are right that quantity and enjoyment seem inseparable! For my boyfriend’s family and friends here, I have become una buona forchetta… a good fork… which means I enjoy eating. It always makes me smile! A good fork! The Italians do have such funny and charming ways to describe things sometimes! Thanks for sharing the funny stories of your father-in-law!
    I have heard tale of people they call “the good fork,” but I’ve never been blessed with the title. The funny thing is, Laura I *really* do eat – a lot! I don’t “get it.”
    Laura at Ciao Amalfi’s last blog post..Tempting Tuesday: Torello

  6. Stephanie Pizzo

    My dear husband thought he was speaking an english saying, “Not over my dead body”, but it came out, “you can walk on me if my body is dead”……so cute!
    Cherrye, you’ve been in my prayers…
    That is hilarious.

  7. Sierra

    Too funny! I’d love to eat dinner with your family. (mind you I’d need you to translate as my Italian language skills are limited)
    I need my hair painted too.
    Come on over. There is always plenty of food! lol

  8. Amber

    I love this post, your suocero is funny! Ahhh sorry about your little grey hair, I gotta tell ya I’ve been there. Paint them, ha ha! Peppe is cute too, offering that as consolation! 🙂 As for funny things, this isn’t really funny, but I find it charming that Italians refer to babies as cuccioli- puppies! I can’t tell you how many times little Luca has been exclaimed over “Aw, cucciolo!” or “che bel cucciolino!” I would never call an American woman’s baby a puppy- but it really sounds great in Italian!
    I love that cucciolino thing, too… precious!
    Amber’s last blog post..Chard and Pine Nuts

  9. j

    I don’t know if it is just my family or what, but Italians seem to have more “dirty” sayings than there are in the US.
    I don’t know, either, but I’d be interested to find out, too!

  10. Carole in KC

    I just love your stories about your suocero and how you tell them! He reminds me of my family in Sicily. You’re damned if you do and damned if you don’t. Shame on you for corrupting Peppe and changing his eating habits.lol.

    We’re going back to visit in Aug. and I’m dreading the comments about me being a little “grassa” and why I haven’t taught my husband how to speak Italian. It’s all my fault, you know?

    It’s so great to have you back!
    Absolutely it is your fault! Come on, now! lol Will you be swinging by Calabria or visiting Sicily only?

  11. I began hair-painting after an old gent went tap-tapping past me on the Rapallo Lungomare, took, a look, stopped, came back and said, “La faccia cosi giovane, i capelli cosi vecchi” (not sure if I’ve rendered that correctly, but you get the picture – The face so young, the hair so old). grrr. Always hated doing it (the smell, the wasted time) and finally stopped. Am now defiantly and happily grey, grey, grey! And my husband prefers it. So, take that, old man by the sea.
    “Old man by the sea,” I love it! Ha.
    Fern Driscoll’s last blog post..Near and South of the Border, part two

  12. You are brave to post about your 1 gray hair! I still have not posted about mine because I figure if I ignore it, it will go away. Luckily I already “paint” my hair but I still find it every once in awhile (I recently switched my part so it goes away now!).

    Your father-in-law cracks me up too! If I lived in Seattle I would call the rain a bastard too… but I am in AZ so I welcome the rain anytime it wants to come. Next time tell him to curse the rain here!

    Thanks for sharing these funny things! I always enjoy reading them.
    Thanks, Jennifer. He is a funny guy, what can I say?
    Jennifer’s last blog post..A day

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