Italian word of the day: ‘Attaccabottoni’

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...?

Italian word of the day: 'Attaccabottoni'
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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.

A literal “button-attacher” for sale on Kijiji

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.

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: ‘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.