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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Meno male’

Thank goodness for this phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Meno male'
Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Feel like the studying’s paid off and you’re finally getting all this Italian vocab to stick? 

Meno male, we might tell you: ‘just as well’. Click here to hear it pronounced.

This common expression (literally: ‘less bad’) is a way to welcome a piece of information, while implying that the alternative would be a whole lot worse.

You can translate it as anything from ‘just as well’ to ‘fortunately’ to ‘thank goodness’.

Sei tornato! Meno male!
You’re back! Thank goodness!

You can say it on its own, like in the example above, or specify what you’re thankful for by adding che.

Meno male che stai bene.
It’s a good job you’re ok.

It expresses gladness, gratitude, but most of all, relief. That’s why you might hear people use with a big sigh and a wipe of the forehead, like we would say: ‘phew!’

The prize for the most notorious (and cringeworthy) usage of this phrase in Italy goes to the song Meno male che Silvio c’e (‘Thank goodness for Silvio’) by Andrea Vantini, used in ex-prime minister Silvio Berlusconi’s campaigning with former party Popolo della Libertà.

Finally, note the spelling: while you might see it written as one word by some, in fact it’s most definitely two.

Meno male we checked the dictionary, eh?

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

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Conosco i miei polli’

We know what we're dealing with with this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Conosco i miei polli'

You don’t have to be a poultry farmer to go around telling people ‘conosco i miei polli’ – literally, ‘I know my chickens’ – in Italian.

There’s no perfect translation, but it means something along the lines of ‘I know who I’m dealing with/ what they can get up to/ what they’re like’; I know what to expect from them, for better or worse.

It usually implies slightly mischievously that the people or person being discussed could be troublemakers, and that the speaker has the necessary knowledge to deal with them effectively.

You might think of it as ‘I know what those little devils/rascals are like’ if referring to naughty children, or ‘I know how those jokers/b******s operate’ if discussing petty officials or difficult colleagues.

Saranno tornati entro la mattinata; fidati, conosco i miei polli.
They’ll be back by morning; trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Conosco i miei polli; vedrete che arriveranno alla riunione con mezz’ora di ritardo e daranno la colpa al traffico.
I know them: you’ll see, they’ll get to the meeting half an hour late and blame it on the traffic.

Business Guy Nbc GIF by Sunnyside

According to at least one source, the full original phrase is ‘conosco i miei polli alla calzetta‘, or ‘I know my chickens by their stockings’.

It refers back to a time when chickens roamed the streets or shared courtyards freely.

So they didn’t get mixed up, each bird had a little scrap of coloured cloth tied around their foot that allowed each owner to quickly spot their chicken.

The next time you’re dealing with some tricky characters, you’ll know just what to say.

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

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