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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Colin Firth swearing in Italian goes viral

A video interview in which British actor Colin Firth swears in Italian has gone viral in Italy, winning the star praise from the Italian media for his pronunciation. Although even the actor himself lamented that he could never "be mistaken for an Italian".

Colin Firth swearing in Italian goes viral
Screengrab: Time

He’s perhaps best known for his portrayal of gentleman Mr Darcy in the screen adaptation of Pride and Prejudice. But in a recent video interview actor Colin Firth showed he can also be foul-mouthed when called upon.

In a video interview with Time in April to promote his new film The Railway Man, the star, who is married to Italian film producer and director Livia Giuggioli, spoke, among other things, of his love of Italian swearwords. 

Asked what his favourite word in Italian was, the 53-year-old Bridget Jones' Diary star replied: “The insults are wonderful because they use them more sparingly than we do but they really do use them to great effect. ‘Stronzo’ is a wonderful word.”

By way of explanation Firth added: “It means a piece of shit. But it’s more specific than that – it means a floating piece of shit.”

He also spoke of the importance in Italy of making a good impression – “fare bella figura” in Italian – and how there was no single word in English for “figuraccia”, which loosely translates as making a bad impression of yourself.

During the interview, the star, who started learning Italian when he and Giuggioli began to date, said his Italian was good enough for him to act in an Italian film just as long as he was playing an Englishman.

“I couldn’t be mistaken for an Italian,” he said.

Since the interview was published on April 16th it has gone viral in Italy, with the video appearing on several Italian news websites.

"Colin Firth and Italian swearwords pronounced with perfect British aplomb," read a headline on the Italian cinematic website Bad Taste.

Meanwhile, the Italian website Fanpage praised the actor's wife for teaching him such good Italian: "His Italian wife Livia Giuggioli has been a good teacher and the class with which the famous Hollywood actor pronounced Italian swearwords such as 'stronzo' immediately spread round the world." 

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Inchiodare’

You'll nail this word in no time.

Italian word of the day: 'Inchiodare'

What do a carpenter, a detective, and a bank robber screeching to a halt in their getaway car all have in common?

In English, not much – but in Italian, they could all be said to inchiodare (eenk-ee-ohd-AHR-eh) in the course of their professional activities.

In its simplest form, inchiodare simply means ‘to nail’ (chiodo, ‘kee-OH-do’, is a nail) – a picture to a wall, or a leg to a table.

Ha trovato questo cartello inchiodato alla sua porta.
She found this notice nailed to her door.

Inchioderò la mensola al muro più tardi.
I’ll nail the shelf to the wall later.

But like ‘to nail’, inchiodare has more than one definition.

You can use it to describe someone or something being ‘pinned’ in place, without actually having been literally nailed there.

Mi ha inchiodato al muro.
He pinned me to the wall.

La mia gamba è inchiodata al terreno.
My leg is pinned to the ground.

You can be metaphorically inchiodato to a place in the sense of being stuck there, tied down, or trapped.

Dovrei essere in vacanza e invece sono inchiodata alla mia scrivenia.
I should be on holiday and instead I’m stuck at my desk.

Don'T Forger You'Re Here Forever GIF - The Simpsons Mr Burns Youre Here GIFs

Siamo inchiodati a questa scuola per altri tre anni.
We’re stuck at this school for another three years.

Sono stati inchiodati dal fuoco di armi.
They were trapped by gunfire.

Just like in English, you can inchiodare (‘nail’) someone in the sense of proving their guilt.

Chiunque sia stato, ha lasciato tracce di DNA che lo inchioderanno.
Whoever it was, they left traces of DNA that will take them down.

Ti inchioderò per questo omicidio.
I’m going to nail you for this murder.

Thomas Sadoski Tommy GIF by CBS

Senza la pistola non lo inchioderemo, perché non abbiamo altre prove.
Without the gun we’re not going to get him, because we have no other proof.

For reasons that are less clear, the word can also mean to slam on the brakes in a car.

Ha inchiodato e ha afferrato la pistola quando ha visto la volante bloccando la strada.
He slammed on the brakes and grabbed the gun when he saw the police car blocking the road.

Hanno inchiodato la macchina a pochi passi da noi.
They screeched to a halt in the car just a few feet away from us.

Those last two definitions mean that you’re very likely to encounter the word when watching mystery shows or listening to true crime podcasts. Look out for it the next time you watch a detective drama.

In the meantime, have a think about what (or who) you can inchiodare this week.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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