Here we are, ready to satisfy our curiosity a bit more! Cutting ropes, smashing eggs, emptying bags… what do you think these mean?
Take notes and try to use these idioms as much as you can when talking to your Italian friends. In addition to being fun, the explanation of the origins of each idiom gives you some details about many traditional aspects of Italian culture.
Felice come una Pasqua
Translation: Happy like (an) Easter
What a better subject than Easter now that this well known event is approaching! The Italian name for Easter, Pasqua, comes from the Greek Pascha. It is a mobile festivity, which means that its date is not fixed. Every year it happens on the Sunday following the first full moon after the vernal equinox.
Easter is the most important and merriest celebration for Catholics (yes, more important than Christmas!), since it commemorates the resurrection of Jesus Christ. If you add this to the fact that it usually occurs over the beginning of spring, you can easily understand why it has been associated with happiness and joy!
Evviva! Evviva! Sono felice come una Pasqua! Il mio colloquio di lavoro è andato molto bene e mi hanno subito assunta!
Che barba! (Informal use only)
Translation: What a beard!
This very widely used idiom is what Italians utter when they are bored or annoyed by something. Even though it's preferable to say it in a familiar context, it is a polite alternative to many other equivalent slang expressions. It plays with the fact that it takes a long time for a man to grow his beard!
Che barba! Non ne posso più di aspettare quella ritardataria (someone who is often late) di mia sorella! Vado da sola!
Essere come il prezzemolo
Translation: To be like parsley
Alongside basil, rosemary, thyme and black pepper, parsley is very common in Italian recipes. This is the reason why when associated with people, the idiom means that the person in question attends every event, or that he/she is often seen in many different places. When it refers to things in general, it means they are very common and easy to find.
Questo attore è proprio come il prezzemolo! Recita in così tante soap opera!
Rompere le uova nel paniere
Translation: To break the eggs in the basket
More eggs in our pictures! To understand the meaning of this idiom, I would like you to think of a humble peasant who has just collected some eggs from the chicken coop (or that has just bought them from a neighbour) and put them in a basket. Before industrial farming, egg production was not scheduled in advance. People could only predict roughly how many eggs chickens would make.
Our peasant friend would then be very careful with his eggs. If they had been broken, he would have given up all his plans about what to cook with the eggs and waited for the next day to collect more. Nowadays, if someone “breaks the eggs in your basket,” it means that this person destroyed your plans!
Avevo pianificato ogni cosa per la festa a sorpresa per Luca, quando Giovanna mi ha rotto le uova nel paniere spifferandogli tutto! (blabbing everything to him)
Tagliare la corda (Informal use only)
Translation: To cut the rope
This is a particularly curious idiom. Historians say that it has two possible different origins. The first one refers to the expression sailors used to announce that their ship was ready to set out and the ropes that connected it to the docks which had to be cut.
The second possible origin refers to prisoners or animals in captivity that manage to escape by breaking the rope to which they are tied. If you “cut the rope,” it means you're craftily running away from a difficult or embarrassing situation!
I bambini hanno rotto la finestra del vicino mentre giocavano a palla. Prima che qualcuno se ne potesse accorgere, hanno pensato bene di tagliare la corda!
Vuotare il sacco (Informal use only)
Translation: To empty the sack
Probably associated with the image of a thief running away with a full sack of stolen goods, this popular expression means to reveal everything we know about a certain embarrassing story, or to admit all your bad deeds.
Avanti! Vuota il sacco! Che cosa hai combinato ieri a scuola? Ho ricevuto una telefonata dalla maestra!
- Easter egg image by Cyndy Sims Parr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
- Bearded man image by Lance Cheung, USDA (CC BY 2.0)
- Parsley image by cookbookman17 (CC BY 2.0)
- Broken egg image by Matthew (CC BY 2.0)
- Rope and scissors image by THOR (CC BY 2.0), rotated
- Sack image by David Joyce (CC BY-SA 2.0)