With the winners of the Sanremo Music Festival still ringing in people's ears, it seems like a good time to turn the spotlight on the word tormentone.
If it sounds like a form of torture, well, it's not far off. The term comes from the verb tormentare ('to torment, pester, nag at'), combined with the suffix ~one that denotes large size. You can translate un tormentone literally as 'a big torment'.
What's that got to do with Sanremo? It's not a judgement on the entries' melodic qualities (or lack thereof): a tormentone is what you call a song that you hear over and over again.
Soldi di Mahmood è il tormentone di Sanremo.
Soldi by Mahmood is the hit of Sanremo.
It's sometimes translated as 'earworm', the slightly too literal name for a song that gets stuck in your head, but a tormentone isn't necessarily irritatingly catchy. You just hear it over, and over, and over again. And then another few times more.
The term isn't just for songs: it also applies to anything that's repeated incessantly, for instance a comedian's signature punch line…
Il comico diceva il suo tormentone in ogni occasione possibile.
The comedian said his catchphrase at every possible opportunity.
… or a topic that keeps coming up.
Il matrimonio reale è il tormentone del momento.
The royal wedding is the buzz of the moment.
In fact, you can use it for anything or anyone that you're sick of the sound of.
Questo continuo passaggio di auto è un tormentone.
This continual passing of cars is a real nuisance.
Ma che tormentone questo signore!
What a pain this man is!
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.