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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘A quattr’occhi’

Just between us, this phrase is a handy one to know.

Italian expression of the day: 'A quattr'occhi'
Photo: DepositPhotos

Psst. Over here. Don't mention anything, but today's phrase is for when you need a little bit of discretion.

A quattr'occhi means, literally, 'between four eyes' – in other words, 'between the two of us'.

It implies a meeting both in person and in private, making it 'face-to-face' and 'one-on-one' at the same time.

Devo parlarti a quattr’occhi.
I need to speak to you in private. 

Ero convinto sarebbe stato un colloquio a quattr'occhi.
I thought this was going to be a private conversation.

Ti dispiace se faccio una chiacchierata a quattr'occhi con il mio ragazzo?
Do you mind if I have a little tête-à-tête with my boyfriend?

It's not to be confused with quattrocchi, an irreverent term – 'four eyes' – for someone who wears glasses (and also the name of a bird and type of fish, apparently).

Quattrocchi also happens to be what Brainy Smurf was called in the Italian version of the cartoon (I Puffi), for reasons you can probably see for yourself. 

Do you have a favourite Italian word you'd like us to feature? If so, please email our editor Jessica Phelan with your suggestion.

 

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Conosco i miei polli’

We know what we're dealing with with this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Conosco i miei polli'

You don’t have to be a poultry farmer to go around telling people ‘conosco i miei polli’ – literally, ‘I know my chickens’ – in Italian.

There’s no perfect translation, but it means something along the lines of ‘I know who I’m dealing with/ what they can get up to/ what they’re like’; I know what to expect from them, for better or worse.

It usually implies slightly mischievously that the people or person being discussed could be troublemakers, and that the speaker has the necessary knowledge to deal with them effectively.

You might think of it as ‘I know what those little devils/rascals are like’ if referring to naughty children, or ‘I know how those jokers/b******s operate’ if discussing petty officials or difficult colleagues.

Saranno tornati entro la mattinata; fidati, conosco i miei polli.
They’ll be back by morning; trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Conosco i miei polli; vedrete che arriveranno alla riunione con mezz’ora di ritardo e daranno la colpa al traffico.
I know them: you’ll see, they’ll get to the meeting half an hour late and blame it on the traffic.

Business Guy Nbc GIF by Sunnyside

According to at least one source, the full original phrase is ‘conosco i miei polli alla calzetta‘, or ‘I know my chickens by their stockings’.

It refers back to a time when chickens roamed the streets or shared courtyards freely.

So they didn’t get mixed up, each bird had a little scrap of coloured cloth tied around their foot that allowed each owner to quickly spot their chicken.

The next time you’re dealing with some tricky characters, you’ll know just what to say.

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

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