Go on then, I admit it… I’m a bit of a languages geek. Somewhat obvious in the fact I chose to study languages at university, but I’m sick of playing it cool. I really like the fact that I get to study something I love as opposed to something that could simply lead to a well paid job. This activity appealed to me because I get to share with you some of the interesting (well I find them interesting) local expressions that I overheard during my year abroad! I’ll begin with Italian, one of the most romantic languages in the world. I’ll give you the phrase, the literal translation and then what the expression is actually trying to say, in some cases there is an equivalent expression in English!
1.) Avere gli occhi addosso.
Translation: Have eyes on.
Meaning: Have all eyes on you.
2.) Essere nel pallone.
Translation: To be in the ball.
Meaning: To show no reaction or response as a result of stress or emotion. (To be spaced out.)
3.) Dare un colpo di telefono.
Translation: To give a blow of the telephone.
Meaning: To give somebody a ring.
4.) Zitto e mosca!
Translation: Silence and fly!
Meaning: Silence, don’t say anything!
5.) Due piedi in una scarpa.
Translation: Two feet in one shoe.
Meaning: Cannot decide between two possibilities.
6.) Avere sale in zucca.
Translation: To have salt in the pumpkin.
Meaning: To be intelligent and quick-witted.
7.) Essere al verde.
Translation: To be at the green.
Meaning: To be bankrupt.
8.) Non avere peli sulla lingua.
Translation: To have no hairs on the tongue.
Meaning: To be sincere and speak the truth, even if it means coming across rude.
9.) Essere un pezzo di pane.
Translation: To be a piece of bread.
Meaning: To be kind and good.
10.) In bocca al lupo.
Translation: In the wolf’s mouth.
Meaning: Good luck!
11.) Essere pieno come un uovo.
Translation: To be full like an egg.
Meaning: To be full/have eaten too much.
12.) Far ridere i polli.
Translation: To amuse the chickens.
Meaning: To be a laughing stock.
13.) Attaccare bottone.
Translation: To fasten buttons.
Meaning: To chat somebody up.
14.) Mettere i bastoni tra le ruote.
Translation: To put a cane between the wheels.
Meaning: To put a spanner in the works.
Translation: Plant it!
Meaning: Pack it in!
And now moving onto French. I found it a bit harder to pick up on idiomatic expressions in French, perhaps they are just easier to detect in Italian but here goes:
1.) Au pif.
Translation: At the nose.
Meaning: A general estimate.
2.) Être une bonne poire.
Translation: To be a good pear.
Meaning: To be naïve.
3.) Poser un lapin.
Translation: To put a rabbit.
Meaning: To stand somebody up/not show up.
4.) La nuit porte conseil.
Translation: The night brings advice.
Meaning: Don’t rush into things.
5.) Faire l’andouille.
Translation: To make the sausage.
Meaning: To do something ridiculous.
6.) Avoir une poile dans le main.
Translation: To have a hair in the hand.
Meaning: To be lazy.
7.) Avoir le cafard.
Translation: To have the cockroach.
Meaning: To be depressed.
8.) Donner un coup de main.
Translation: To give a knock of the hand.
Meaning: To lend a helping hand.
9.) Donner sa langue au chat.
Translation: To give your tongue to the cat.
Meaning: I have no idea/I give up!
10.) Avoir une peur bleue.
Translation: To have a blue fear.
Meaning: To be terrified.
11.) Faire la tête.
Translation: Make the head.
Meaning: To sulk.
12.) Tomber dans les pommes.
Translation: To fall in the apples.
Meaning: To faint.
13.) Être bien dans sa peau.
Translation: To feel good in your skin.
Meaning: To be comfortable with yourself and happy with who you are.
14.) En avoir ras le bol.
Translation: To have a bowl full of it.
Meaning: To be sick of something.
15.) S’occuper de ses oignons.
Translation: To take care of your onions.
Meaning: To mind your own business.
So there you have it. A few little idiomatic expressions from France and Italy. I think I have used a grand total of two from this list. It’s hard to just slip them into everyday conversation but I’m going to be persistent as they are a great way to make you sound more natural and more like a native speaker!