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Italian word of the day: ‘Paturnie’

When life gets you down... learn the word for it.

Italian word of the day: 'Paturnie'
Photo: DepositPhotos

You know those days when nothing feels quite right? 

You’ve got le paturnie: ‘the blues’, or as Holly Golightly would put it, ‘the mean reds‘. 

It’s a kind of melancholy or anxiety or irritableness or all of the above, provoked by something you can’t quite put your finger on.

Ogni tanto mi vengono le paturnie.
Every so often I get the blues.

The origins of the word aren’t clear, but one theory is that it comes from a Latin expression meaning patire le saturnie (‘to endure the influences of Saturn’), from the days when the planets were believed to exercise influence over people’s moods.

The implication is that le paturnie appear and disappear the way the sun rises and sets – with very little you can do about it. 

If you’re thus afflicted you say you ‘have’ the blues: avere le paturnie.

Che c’hai le paturnie?
What’s up with you, got the blues?

The only cure is waiting for your stars to align more favourably – though perhaps you can hurry them along with a generous plate of pasta and glass of wine to match.

Unless, of course, Breakfast at Tiffany’s is an option.

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.