Italian expression of the day: ‘Che barba’

Italian expression of the day: 'Che barba'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond
Telling people how bored you are has never been so amusing.

Life in Italy is anything but boring, epecially when you're learning the language. Every conversation opens up new opportunities to test your vocabulary, learn something new, or make a total fool of yourself.

Still, you might like to know when Italians are telling you they're bored or tired of something – particularly if they do so using this phrase.

Literally “what a beard,” che barba means “what a bore.”

Perhaps this means whatever’s happening is about as exciting as watching a beard grow. But I like to imagine it's a reference to a particularly long-winded – and long-bearded – professor who regularly puts his students to sleep.

In any case, if you hear someone suddenly exclaim che barba!” they're not complimenting someone's excellent facial hair.

– Non ti è piaciuto il film?

– No. Che barba!

– Didn't you like the film?

– No! What a bore.

Or you can dispense with words altogether as, being Italian, this phrase has its own hand gesture. If you see an Italian stroking an imaginary beard, they're probably not contemplating the meaning of life.

For example:

– How was Italian class today?

– (Silent stroking of chin)


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  1. I seem to recall during my time in Northern Italy, that this expression also referred to the fact that men had to shave every day; a boring fact of life. The gesture is close to one of my favourites: the quick, multiple flick of all four fingers under the chin denoting ‘I couldn’t care less’ (me ne frega….). So not to be confused, even if the end result can be similar!

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