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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian word of the day: ‘Imbiancato’

Here's a word you might find useful with the wintry weather arriving in northern Italy today.

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

Whenever freezing weather arrives in Italy, it makes for some stunning photos of famous sights transformed by more than a slight dusting of snow.

Many visitors are surprised to learn that it can snow heavily even in southern Italy, and that snowfall is common in the north. There's no doubt that Italy's already jaw-dropping sights and landscapes are even more magical in this weather. 

Luckily, Italians have a particular word to describe the phenomenon. 

Imbiancato is an adjective used to describe something that has been turned white, or diventato bianco.

 

We don't have a one-word equivalent for this in English – it would be something like 'enwhitened'.

Some dictionaries give 'whitewashed' as an English translation, but that doesn't quite work – since we don't say that snow has “whitewashed” a place.

For example:

– La neve ha imbiancato i sassi di Matera

– The snow has turned Matera’s Sassi white.

– Vedemmo Vesuvio imbiancato

– We saw Mount Vesuvius covered in snow

As if one cool word for being covered in snow wasn't enough, you could also use innevato, also meaning snowy or snow-covered.

– l'intera città era innevata

– The whole city was covered in snow

We think these are beautiful examples of how sometimes we express even the simplest thoughts completely differently in Italian than we would in English.

And of course, you can also say:

-Sulla neve

– In the snow

– Coperto di neve

– Covered in snow

So when you come across a magical Italian winter landscape, at least you won't be lost for words in Italian.

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

Italian expression of the day: ‘Conosco i miei polli’

We know what we're dealing with with this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Conosco i miei polli'

You don’t have to be a poultry farmer to go around telling people ‘conosco i miei polli’ – literally, ‘I know my chickens’ – in Italian.

There’s no perfect translation, but it means something along the lines of ‘I know who I’m dealing with/ what they can get up to/ what they’re like’; I know what to expect from them, for better or worse.

It usually implies slightly mischievously that the people or person being discussed could be troublemakers, and that the speaker has the necessary knowledge to deal with them effectively.

You might think of it as ‘I know what those little devils/rascals are like’ if referring to naughty children, or ‘I know how those jokers/b******s operate’ if discussing petty officials or difficult colleagues.

Saranno tornati entro la mattinata; fidati, conosco i miei polli.
They’ll be back by morning; trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

Conosco i miei polli; vedrete che arriveranno alla riunione con mezz’ora di ritardo e daranno la colpa al traffico.
I know them: you’ll see, they’ll get to the meeting half an hour late and blame it on the traffic.

Business Guy Nbc GIF by Sunnyside

According to at least one source, the full original phrase is ‘conosco i miei polli alla calzetta‘, or ‘I know my chickens by their stockings’.

It refers back to a time when chickens roamed the streets or shared courtyards freely.

So they didn’t get mixed up, each bird had a little scrap of coloured cloth tied around their foot that allowed each owner to quickly spot their chicken.

The next time you’re dealing with some tricky characters, you’ll know just what to say.

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

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