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Italian word of the day: 'Pettegolezzo'

Jessica Phelan
Jessica Phelan - [email protected]
Italian word of the day: 'Pettegolezzo'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Have you heard what they're saying about this Italian word?

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This word was suggested by one of our readers, who we can only hope has not found himself the subject of it: il pettegolezzo, 'gossip' or 'rumour' (hear the pronunciation here).

Vuoi sentire un pettegolezzo?
Do you want to hear a bit of gossip?

It's usually used in the plural – pettegolezzi – and while in English we'd 'spread' rumours, in Italian you 'do' them (fare).

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Fare pettegolezzi non è soltanto una cattiva abitudine: può essere un'attività molto dannosa.
Gossiping is not only a bad habit, it can also be very damaging.

Alternatively you can spettegolare, another verb that means 'to gossip'. (In Italian, verbs formed from adjectives often add an s~: for instance, bianco ('white') becomes sbiancare, 'to whiten'.)

Non fanno che spettegolare.
All they do is gossip.

Someone who indulges in said habit is un/a pettegolo/a.

Era un gran pettegolo.
He was a dreadful gossip.

As you'll have gathered, the word typically has a negative connotation – which has a lot to do with where it comes from. The dictionary says it derives from the Venetian term for peto, or 'fart', in reference to "the verbal incontinence of gossipy people". 

In other words, those who gossip are seen as having a kind of 'mouth flatulence'. And if that's not a reason to keep your lips sealed, I don't know what is.

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