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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Consuocero’

Use this handy word to keep up with your Italian family tree.

Italian word of the day: 'Consuocero'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

It's a stereotype, but for good reason: in Italy, family is important.

So important, in fact, that Italian has words for family members that we never got round to inventing in English.

One such is consuocero (pronounced “con-swotch-ero”), which refers to your own child's father-in-law (or your son-/daughter-in-law's father, depending on how you look at it). 

Naturally there's a version for your child's mother-in-law too: consuocera.

Your own in-laws are your suoceri ('parents-in-law'), so adding the joining prefix con~ turns the word into something like 'co-parents-in-law'.

Mio padre è il consuocero del padre di mio marito.
My dad is the co-father-in-law of my husband's dad.

Mia madre è la consuocera della madre di mia moglie.
My mum is the co-mother-in-law of my wife's mum.

I consuoceri sono i suoceri del proprio figlio.
Co-parents-in-law are your child's in-laws.

It's a term we just don't have in English, and it testifies to the fact that in Italy it's assumed you'll not only know your child's in-laws, you'll want to talk about them to other people. A lot. So much you need a special word for them.

Get used to it!

Do you have an Italian phrase you'd like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Scarabocchio’

Can you fathom the meaning of this word?

Italian word of the day: ‘Scarabocchio’

If you haven’t yet found a proper Italian word to describe the unintelligible collection of dots, wonky lines and swirls that Italian doctors often nonchalantly passes off as a prescription, scarabocchio might do the trick.

Scarabocchio is the Italian equivalent of ‘scribble’ or ‘scrawl’ and it describes to any piece of writing or drawing whose meaning can’t be fathomed. 

Ho lasciato la lista della spesa sul tavolo!

Si, l’ho vista ma non ci ho capito niente. Era tutto uno scarabocchio…

I left the shopping list on the table!

Yes, I saw it but couldn’t understand any of it. It was all a scribble…

From a five-year-old’s abstract artworks to a colleague’s poor excuse for a handwritten note, you can use scarabocchio for pretty much anything – as long as it figures on a piece of paper. 

Though it is a bit of a mouthful (pronunciation available here), Italians love to use the word in daily conversations, especially so when it comes to mocking the unfortunate author of the scribble. 

Ti ho fatto uno schema per farti capire meglio.

Ma cos’e’ ‘sta cosa? Mi sembra proprio uno scarabocchio…

I’ve drawn a diagram to help you understand.

What on earth is this? It looks like a scrawl to me…

The word comes from the fusion of scarabeo (beetle) and the pejorative suffix -occhio (also used in ranocchio, meaning ‘ugly frog’, and marmocchio, meaning ‘bratty kid’). 

Though today’s scribbles may not resemble the shape of a beetle, they most likely did back in the days when poor handwriting skills would result in your quill creating circular blots of ink on the paper.

That’s why, to this day, Italians refer to scribbles as ‘ugly beetles’. 

Funnily enough, sgorbio, one of scarabocchio’s synonyms, also takes its name from an animal, namely the scorpion. But that’s a story for another time.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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