Italian word of the day: ‘Attaccabottoni’

Italian word of the day: 'Attaccabottoni'
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If we could just get your attention for one minute, we'll explain everything you need to know about this word, don't worry, it won't take long but isn't this weather hot...?

That chatty nonno at the bottom of your road who’s determined to stop you for a half-hour lecture about his zinnias each time you pass by? He’s an attaccabottoni.

It means someone who, literally, “attaches your buttons”: the image it conjures up is of someone keeping you a little too close for a little too long, as if they were repairing the jacket you’re wearing. Or, as we’d say in English, buttonholing you.


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In other words, they’ll talk your ear off, whether you want them to or not.

È un tremendo attaccabottoni.
He’s such a windbag.

The nice thing, for those of us who sometimes struggle to remember which ending to use, is that attaccabottoni is invariable: whether you’re talking about a man or a women, one windbag or – heaven forbid – a whole crowd of them, the word doesn’t change.

Camminava rapida per scoraggiare gli attaccabottoni.
She walked quickly to discourage buttonholers. 

The term is sort of a pun in Italian, because attaccare discorso con qualcuno means ‘to strike up conversation with someone’. And you’ll sometimes see the phrase attaccare bottone used to mean ‘start a conversation’ or ‘make an approach’, especially with someone new. 

In fact there are even self-help guides on how to attaccare bottone with an attractive stranger; but please, please, read the signals and take the hint when you’re pinning anybody – or their buttons – down.

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