What's the best way to learn Italian? By listening out for new words and passing them on in your own speech.
Today's phrase is the perfect one to share: il tamtam means the rumour mill or grapevine.
Also spelled tam-tam or tam tam, its literal meaning is tom-tom – as in, the drum. Consider that drumming used to be used to communicate messages from one village to the next in pre-phone days, and you'll understand why Italians use the word today to describe the mechanism of passing on information or gossip.
Il tamtam dell'ufficio ha diffuso la notizia.
The office grapevine spread the news.
Il tamtam del villaggio è già in piena funzione.
The village grapevine is already in full swing.
These days, of course, it's not just your nosy neighbours who spread the news but everybody's, all over the world, all at once, via the biggest grapevine ever known: the internet. Nowadays you'll hear tamtam used especially in connection with social media and other 'unofficial' sources of information.
'Thieves in action in Varazze, the social media grapevine kicks in': a local news headline describing a Facebook post about the theft of a scooter.
Naturally the grapevine isn't the most reliable source of information: that's why tamtam often has a negative tone. The term is sometimes used as shorthand for unverified gossip or frenzied speculation.
Il caso ha creato un tamtam mediatico senza precedenti.
The case created an unprecedented media frenzy.
But you can trust our definition, honest. We swear we have it on good authority. And if anyone asks you how you know all this, just tell them:
L'ho sentito attraverso il tamtam.
I heard it on the grapevine.
Do you have a favourite Italian word, phrase or expression you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.