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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Come no’

Why not add this phrase to your Italian vocabulary?

Italian expression of the day: 'Come no'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

One word I use quite often in Italian is certo, meaning “sure” or “certainly”.

This is mostly because I rarely turn down any sort of food or drink that I'm offered here in Italy – after all, that would just be rude.

– Vorresti un altro po' di tiramisù?

– Certo, grazie!

– Would you like some more tiramisu?

– Of course, thanks!

But certo can get repetitive, especiilly if you're offered a lot of food (and chances are, you will be.)

You can mix things up by using today's phrase instead. Come no basically means “why not?” or “of course”, and just as in English, it's for those situations when you'd be very unlikely to refuse something.

– Andiamo per un aperitivo?

– Si, come no!

– Shall we go for an aperitivo?

– Yes, why not?

It can also be used in an ironic way. For example, if people have been bothering you with questions all day long and you can't get anything done, you might have the following exchange with the next person who comes along with a query.

-Posso disturbarti?

.Come no. Ci mancavi solo tu!

– May I disturb you?

– Why not? You're the only one who hasn't yet!

And depending on your tone, come no can become more sarcastic. A bit like “well, obviously!”

But its common use also seems, to me at least, to be an especially friendly and enthusiastic way of accepting offers. It seems to imply that you'd really love to (depending on your tone, of course).

 – La prossima volta che sei a Pisa, dovresti venire a cena a casa mia.

– Come no!

– Next time you're in town you must come for dinner at my house.

– Of course!

Do you have a favourite 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

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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