I’ve decided to start a series of posts on Italian proverbs. Proverbs are an important part of a language and a culture; they are passed down from one generation to the next, and reveal much about a people’s way of thinking. In each post I will mention a proverb for (almost) every letter of the alphabet. Ready? Let’s start!
Letter A: A mali estremi, estremi rimedi
In English it is literally ‘To extreme evils, extreme remedies’, but the actual English equivalent is ‘Desperate times call for desperate measures’. It means that in a very difficult situation you are justified to take drastic measures.
Letter B: Batti il ferro finché è caldo
Literally translated this means ‘Strike while the iron is hot’. It means that you have to exploit the situation while it’s possible, before you miss the occasion.
Letter C: Can che abbaia non morde
Its literal translation is ‘The dog that barks doesn’t bite’, and it’s very similar to the English ‘Barking dogs seldom bite’. It means that verbal threats don’t always correspond to actual danger.
Letter D: Dagli amici mi guardi Dio, dai nemici mi guardo io.
Literal translation is ‘God guards me from my friends; I guard myself from my enemies’, while the English equivalent is ‘A man’s worst enemies are often those of his own house’. It refers to the fact that while enemies might be clearly known to you, it’s not always clear if you can completely trust the people you consider to be friends.
Letter F: Finché c’è vita c’è speranza.
The literal translation is ‘As long as there’s life, there’s hope’, and the English equivalent is ‘Where there’s life, there’s hope’. It means that you should never lose hope and should never stop trying (as long as you’re not dead!).
Letter I: Il mondo è fatto a scale, chi Ie scende, e chi le sale.
Its literal translation is ‘The world is made of stairs, somebody goes down, somebody goes up’, the English equivalent is more or less ‘Every dog has his day’. It means that things can go well for somebody and bad for somebody else, or even for the same person things can go sometimes well and sometimes bad.
Letter L: La gatta frettolosa ha fatto i gattini ciechi.
Literally translated is ‘The rushing female cat delivered blind kittens’, and there is an English equivalent in ‘The hasty bitch brings forth blind whelps’. The meaning is that something finished in haste usually doesn’t produce good results.
Letter M: Mal comune, mezzo gaudio.
Literally translates with ‘Common bad, half rejoice’, but the English equivalent is ‘Misery loves company’. It means that if a problem or something bad affects more people, it seems easier to bear and less serious.
Letter N: Niente di nuovo sotto il sole.
It literally translates ‘Nothing new under the sun’; it means that there’s absolutely nothing new going on, or that something that seems a novelty actually isn’t.
Letter P: Paese che vai, usanze che trovi.
Literal translation of this proverb is ‘Country you go to, uses you found’, and is the Italian equivalent for the English ‘When in Rome, do as the Romans do’. It means you should respect and accustom to the local uses.
Letter R: Ride bene chi ride ultimo.
In English it is literally ‘Laughs well he who laughs last’, while the equivalent is ‘He who laughs last, laughs longest (or best)’. It means that small successes or failures along the way have no importance; it’s the end result that matters. (In other words, it doesn’t matter who wins the individual battles; it’s who wins the war that’s important.)
Letter S: Se la montagna non va a Maometto, Maometto viene alla montagna.
The literal translation is ‘If the mountain doesn’t go to Mohammed, Mohammed comes to the mountain’, and the English equivalent is the quite similar ‘If the mountain will not come to Mohammed, Mohammed must go to the mountain’. It means that if it’s difficult to get what you want, you have to adapt and adopt a different approach.
Letter T: Tale madre, tale figlia/Tale padre, tale figlio
Literally translated it is ‘Such mother, such daughter/Such father, such son’, and the similar English equivalent is ‘Like mother, like daughter’ (or, ‘Like father, like son’). It means that, because of inheritance and a close interaction and influence, daughters often look and behave like their mothers, and sons often look and behave like their fathers.
Letter U: Uomo avvisato, è mezzo salvato.
Its literal translation is ‘Warned man, half rescued’, while the English equivalent is ‘Forewarned is forearmed’. It means that if you are warned about something, you can do something to prevent or limit the damage.
That’s all for this post, my lovely dears, I hope you enjoyed it. Do you have any favourite proverb? Let me know, and feel free to post comments or questions. Hope to see you soon on this blog! Ciao ciao!