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Italian word of the day: 'Menefreghismo'

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Italian word of the day: 'Menefreghismo'
Photo: DepositPhotos
19:19 CET+01:00
Don't give a damn about this word? You should.

Today's word speaks to a darker side of Italian culture: menefreghismo.

You might come across the term listening to Italians lament the way corruption and organized crime suck away desperately needed public funds, the way nothing gets done about the potholes and the rubbish lining the streets, and the way it's always someone else's pal who gets the job.

The problem that lies beneath all these things, they might tell you, is menefreghismo – people just don't care.

There isn't a direct translation into English: the word derives from the Italian phrase me ne frego, which roughly means 'I don't give a shit'. 

READ ALSO: Ten untranslatable words that only exist in Italian

That expression came to prominence during the Fascist era, when Blackshirts adopted lines sung by soldiers volunteering to fight in World War One: "I don't care if I should die for our sacred freedom!"

The slogan became a Fascist favourite (and continues to be used deliberately by neo-fascists today). Benito Mussolini defined it as "an education to fighting, and the acceptance of the risks it implies... this is how the Fascist understands life as duty, exaltation, conquest. A life that must be lived highly and fully, both for oneself but especially for others, near and far, present and future."

Others, though, read a different meaning: not caring meant looking out for number one and stubbornly or cynically ignoring any objections.

Menefreghismo ('I-don't-give-a-damn-ism') has become shorthand for a sort of pigheaded selfishness: as various dictionaries define it, 'indifference', 'a couldn't-care-less attitude' or 'a total lack of attention to other people or one's own duties'.

Il suo è menefreghismo bello e buono!
He simply doesn't give a damn!

Someone who exhibits such an attitude habitually is a menefreghista, a person who doesn't give a damn about anything (or a 'don't-give-a-damn-ite', if you will).

Don't be that person.

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.

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