One thing that’s always enjoyable about studying Italian is learning idiomatic expressions – those phrases that don’t translate literally, but give the language so much of its colour.
And the meaning of today’s idiomatic phrase might be a little hard to guess.
Acqua in bocca literally translates as “water in the mouth”, and it’s a way to suggest that someone keeps their mouth firmly shut.
This could be because you’ve got a secret, or because you’re feeling a bit argumentative. Either way, instead of someone saying “keep it to yourself,” in Italian, you’d be told to “keep the water in your mouth”.
After all, if you’ve got a mouth full of water you won’t be doing much talking.
If you’re dying to share a piece of juicy gossip, the mental image of keeping the water in your mouth might just help you refrain from ‘spilling the beans’.
– Ma, ricorda… acqua in bocca.
– But remember, mum’s the word.
– Fino a quel momento, acqua in bocca.
– Until then, keep it to yourself
In one common example, bickering couples in Italy may be advised to ‘keep the water in their mouths’: a local priest apparently told my parents-in-law as newlyweds to imagine having a mouth full of water every time either one of them felt like complaining or picking a fight.
So there you have it. If you need to keep a secret (or find marital bliss) the trick may be simply not to open your mouth.
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