Swearing in Italian

Swearing in Italian

Wednesday, May 23rd, 2018

As I learn more and more Italian, especially through reading Italian mysteries, I’m learning a lot of ways of swearing. Some are mild, as in English and others not so much. Take something that by now seems pretty mild in English, the word “damn”. In italian that would be “porca miseria”. There are others similar that are more serious, porca putana, porca troia, and porca madona. They are something like “holy shit” or “goddamn it” with the later being the more serious and never said in polite company – well, none are really said in polite company. There’s a certain flexibility in the meaning. As an adjective, as in that damned bus is always late the word “maledetto” it the word of choice. To say that you are “incazzato” means that you’re pissed off. If you’re REALLY pissed off you’re incazzato nero”.

Of course there are the old standbys “vafanculo”, i.e. “fuck you”. Someone that is a pain in the ass is a “rompicoglioni” – literally ball buster. I remember a movie with Italian-american mafiosi when asked why one of the mobsters shot someone he said “he was busting my balls”.  Just a “coglione” is “asshole” when referring to someone disagreeable. Another frequent word is “cazzo” which has a wide variety of meanings. It can refer to the male, er, member or as an expletive simply as “shit”. If I stub my toe I’d say “cazzo!”.

Gestures I’m less sure of. The raised middle finger is becoming more widely used here as a “fuck you” gesture but the traditional one is raising you index and pinkie finger. Popular in the U.S. at rock concerts, it has an entirely different meaning here. It’s means “cornuto” or, your partner is sleeping around and is considered a pretty rude gesture.

In one book I’m reading a policeman keeps a list of different degrees of “rotture di coglioni”  – things that are a pain in the ass, examples such as having to pay a parking ticket is at level 5, while a obligatory dinner with in-laws is at level 8, etc. One of my friends, a woman, regularly uses the expression “che palle” (palle means literally balls and we’re not talking sports here) which means “that sucks”.

Below is a video that I found that goes through some of the gestures. A swipe of your fingers below your chin is one I’m quite familiar with which mean “non me ne frega” or you could add “un cazzo” at the end. It means I don’t care and with the addition it means “I don’t give a shit”.

Oh yes, one other one. “figa” depends on context. It can mean a real hottie referring to a woman or in others “pussy”.

Ah, the joys of learning another language.



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