Research tells us that laughing improves your memory. So, what better way to learn a language than by consuming these hilarious food-related Italian sayings.
Before we get to the juicy Italian sayings. Ask yourself, do you have trouble remember things?
Then you need to start laughing!
The idea might sound silly but hear me out.
An early study conducted in 2014 by Loma Linda University in California, found that the less stress a person has, the better their memory is.
Humour reduces cortisol which significantly elevates one’s mood making it conducive to learning. The endorphins produced, aid the immune system to work better, improving brain wave activity to what is called “gamma frequency,” which is an amped recall and memory.
This is an important principle that everyone should implement; especially when it comes to learning a language. It’s especially important because a significant number of people will quit due to boredom and lack of variety.
By applying this principle means you could potentially laugh yourself to fluency!
How to Make Language Learning Enjoyable
Easy! Start learning topics that interest you. Kind of like those times you met a foreigner and asked them how to swear in their language. Swear words are fun, and that’s why you always remember them.
Another topic is idioms or expressions.
For me, when I first started learning Italian back in 2006, all I wanted to do was bury my head in books of idiomatic expressions. Learning quirky phrases and finding reasons to slip them into a conversation was one of my favourite parts of speaking Italian.
Why? Well, not only are Italian sayings wonderfully colourful and often amusing, they also reveal a lot about the language.
I love Italian expressions so much that in my book How to Learn Italian Fast in Just 8 Hours I’ve included two bonus sections that focus solely on popular and everyday expressions Italians love saying.
Learning idiomatic phrases has three benefits. Firstly, it plays an essential part in helping you sound like a native. Secondly, using idioms helps you express exactly what you mean. And of course, now we know the enjoyment you gain from learning them will improve your ability to remember them! So, it’s a win win WIN situation!
26 Reasons to Laugh
To ensure you get I’m going to share some hilarious Italian food-related sayings, insults, and expressions.
It seems only natural that the language of a culture with such a delicious cuisine would be peppered (no pun intended) with sayings referring to pizza, pasta, meatballs, and even parsley get a mention!
So, here is a list of common Italian sayings with their literal translations plus their English equivalents.
1. Fare polpette di qualcuno
Literally: To make meatballs of someone.
English equivalent: To make mincemeat of someone.
2. Che pizza!
Literally: What a pizza!
English equivalent: What a bore!
For Italians, pizza is a staple food which is nothing new to them and can so be considered as boring.
3. Sei come il prezzemolo!
Literally: You’re like parsley!
English equivalent: You turn up everywhere!
Parsley is a common ingredient found in many Italian dishes, so if you’re like parsley, then it means you pop up everywhere or are in the way.
4. Avere la faccia da pesce lesso
Literally: Have a face of a boiled fish.
English equivalent: Have a slack-jaw.
Someone who looks uninteresting and uninterested, not someone you want to make friends with.
5. Avere le mani di pasta frolla
Literally: To have pastry dough hands.
English equivalent: To be a butterfingers.
A personal favourite, this one describes someone who is clumsy and unable to hold something without dropping it.
English equivalent: Heck! Darn! Bugger!
“Cavolo” is a less aggressive way of saying the far more offensive “cazzo”, comparable to the English-language’s sh*t or f**k.
For example: “Che cavolo vuoi?” (literally: what the cabbage do you want?) meaning “What the hell do you want?”
7. Non fare il salame!
Literally: Don’t act like salami!
English equivalent: Don’t be an idiot!
To be clumsy, slow, silly, or very naive and gullible.
8. Conosco i miei polli
Literally: I know my chickens.
English equivalent: To know like the back of your hand.
Another common Italian food found in many dishes, Italian or otherwise. Knowing your chicken (the basics), means you know what you’re talking about.
9. Avere sale in zucca
Literally: You’ve got salt on your pumpkin.
English equivalent: You’re smart as a whip, have your head screwed on.
“Zucca” can also colloquially mean ‘head’. To an Italian, you’re clever if you know to sprinkle salt on pumpkin and other winter squashes to balance its natural sweetness.
10. È buono come il pane
Literally: He’s good like bread.
English equivalent: To be a good egg or good person.
11. C’entra come i cavoli a merenda
Literally: As appropriate as cabbage for a snack.
English equivalent: Having nothing to do with, stick out like a sore thumb.
12. Finire a tarallucci e vino
Literally: To end up with tarallucci (cookies/biscuits) and wine.
English equivalent: All’s well that ends well.
When a dispute or unpleasantness ends amicably, it basically means not to worry, everything’s going to be just fine.
13. O mangi la minestra o salti dalla finestra
Literally: Eat this soup or jump out the window.
English equivalent: It’s my way or the highway.
Used in situations where there are no alternatives.
14. Volere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca
Literally: To want a full bottle and a drunk wife.
English equivalent: You can’t have your cake and eat it too.
This expressions means you can’t have the best of both worlds. Someone has got to remain sober in the house, right?
15. Dire pane al pane e vino al vino
Literally: To call bread, bread and wine, wine.
English equivalent: To call a spade a spade.
To speak frankly.
16. Avere il prosciutto sugli occhi
Literally: To have ham over your eyes.
English equivalent: Have your head in the sand.
17. Una ciliegia tira l’altra
Literally: One cherry leads to another.
English equivalent: To be moorish (something you can’t stop eating).
18. Chi si loda, s’imbroda
Literally: He who praises himself, gets broth all over himself.
English equivalent: To toot one’s horn.
People who compliment themselves lack credibility.
19. Non è farina del mio sacco
Literally: That’s not flour from my sack.
English equivalent: It wasn’t my idea.
20. Non m’importa un fico secco
Literally: I don’t give a dried fig.
English equivalent: I don’t give a damn.
21. Sta come il cacio sui maccheroni
Literally: It’s like cheese on pasta.
English equivalent: It fits it to a T, perfect combination.
The total opposite of “cavoli a merenda”.
22. Cascarci come una pera (cotta)
Literally: To fall for something/someone like a (baked) pear.
English equivalent: Fall for it, fall head over heels.
To be tricked by or to become infatuated with someone.
23. Essere un polentone
Literally: To be a polenta eater.
English equivalent: To be a slowcoach/slowpoke.
Someone who is physically slow, awkward, goofy.
24. Che baccalà!
Literally: What a salted cod!
English equivalent: What a fool!
25. Rendere pan per focaccia
Literally: To give back bread for focaccia.
English equivalent: An eye for an eye, tit for tat.
26. Avere le mani in pasta
Literally: To have the hands in the dough.
English equivalent: Have a finger in every pie, to be very well connected.
Learning any foreign language is fun and exciting. There may be parts that frustrate you, but just remember to balance them out with elements of the language that you enjoy.
There is no reason why you can’t internalise everything you learn without strain or stress. Without homework or laborious repetition.
If you’re a beginner to Italian and want to speak Italian on your next vacation, then you might want to consider using my book How to Learn Italian Fast in 8 Hours.
My simple 9-step method for beginners focuses on the most powerful building blocks of the Italian language which will ensure you’ll be speaking within hours.
Each step revises and builds upon what you’ve learned so there is no need to stop for homework or memorisation, ensuring you progress rapidly and start speaking Italian confidently.
I’d say in bocca al lupo! (Good luck!), but you don’t need it.
Over to you!
Which of these Italian sayings do you love? Do you know any others?
Let me know using the comments section below or join me on social media to start a conversation.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoyed this post.
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