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Italian word of the day: ‘Pettegolezzo’

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

Italian word of the day: 'Pettegolezzo'
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This word was suggested by one of our readers, who I can only hope has not found himself the subject of it: il pettegolezzo, ‘gossip’ or ‘rumour’.

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).

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 have a kind of ‘mouth flatulence’. And if that’s not a reason to keep your lips sealed, I don’t know what is.

Do you have a favourite Italian word you’d like us to feature? 

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For members


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.

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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.