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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Figuraccia’

Hopefully you'll be able to avoid having too much contact with this word.

Italian word of the day: 'Figuraccia'
Photo: DepositPhotos

Those who’ve lived in Italy for any length of time know that few things are more important here than la bella figura – ensuring that you present yourself to the world in your best light.

It’s the perfectly coiffed septuagenarian who shows up at her pasticceria downstairs with her nails freshly painted and her make-up done, or the cyclist who’s accessorised up to the nines with the latest riding gear despite only needing to make a 10 minute journey.

A couple cutting a bella figura on a scooter. Photo: Vadymvdrobot/Depositphotos

The philosophy extends beyond mere physical appearance, however. La bella figura involves acting with grace, elegance, delicacy, and discernment.

And this is doing why the opposite of this – making a bad impression, causing a spectacle, looking like an idiot – is framed in Italian as the direct antonym of bella figura, with the same word stem: the dreaded figuraccia.

Figuraccia is one of those perfect Italian words that deploys the suffix “accia” or “accio” (masc.) to transform a neutral or even positive word into a disgrace (see: parolaccia and giornataccia).

It means an embarrassment or a debacle, the kind of thing you lie awake in bed at night cringing over – like mistaking an acquaintance’s spouse for their child.

Nick Offerman Shade GIF

Mi dispiace tanto per la figuraccia di prima.
I’m really sorry about causing a scene earlier.

Questa festa serà una figuraccia, non hanno preparato nulla
This party’s going to be a disaster, they haven’t planned anything.

Just as in English you “make” a fool of yourself, figuraccia is often combined with the verb fare, to show that you’ve done or are  in the process of committing an embarrassing act.

Il premio ha fatto una figuraccia, ha postato un messaggio privato sul suo profilo pubblico di Twitter.
The prime minister made a blunder, he posted a private message on his public Twitter profile.

Smettila, stai facendo una figuraccia!
Stop that, you’re making a spectacle of yourself!

As you go on your way, may you only make of yourself una bella figura, and never a figuraccia.

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Tirocinio’

Let us offer you some (unpaid) experience with this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: 'Tirocinio'

If you’re entering the world of work in Italy, there’s a good chance that at some point you’ll be offered a tirocinio (pronunciation available here). Should you accept?

That all depends on whether you think you’ll get enough benefit (and money – in the unlikely event there is any) out of an internship, which is what this slightly odd-sounding word means.

According to the Accademia della Crusca, Italy’s oldest linguistic academy and the guardians of the Italian language, it comes from the Latin word tirocinium, which has two components.

The first part of the word comes from tirone, the name for a recruit to the Roman military (tirare means – among others things – ‘to shoot’ in Italian).

The second, cinium, comes from canere, meaning ‘to sound’ (a horn) or ‘to play’ (music); a tubicinium was a horn or trumpet player.

Joined together, the two words meant something like ‘a rousing of the recruits’, in the sense of an initiation or learning experience. An intern is a tirocinante.

Tirocinio isn’t the only Italian word for internship: you’ll also hear people talk about a stage (pronounced the French way, like this, as it’s borrowed from French); an intern is a stagista.

That’s the title given to Alessandro, one of the main characters in the Italian comedy series Boris, who starts an internship on the set of the medical soap opera Eyes of the Heart 2 and is soon initiated into the bizarre and dysfunctional world of Roman TV production.

Ho dovuto lavorare presso la mia azienda per sei mesi come stagista prima che mi offrissero un lavoro.
I had to work at my company for six months as an intern before they offered me a job.

Domani inizierò il mio tirocinio – auguratemi buona fortuna!
I start my internship tomorrow – wish me luck!

If you do end up working as a tirocinante or stagista, hopefully it will be less surreal and better remunerated than that of Boris’s protagonist.

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

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