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Italian word of the day: ‘Totoministri’

Open any Italian newspaper today and you're likely to spot this word among the headlines. But what does it mean?

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

It doesn’t have anything to do with Italian comic treasure Totò – more’s the pity – but it often has elements of farce.

You’ll hear the toto~ prefix whipped out whenever speculation is rife: it comes from gambling, specifically the football pools.

Named Totalizzatore calcistico (‘Football Totalizator’) or Totocalcio for short, it’s a sort of sweep that allows players to bet on the results of several upcoming matches in exchange for a small fixed fee.

Totocalcio signs outside a newsagent’s shop in Italy. Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Journalists adopted the term as a catch-all phrase for making more or less informed guesses about an uncertain outcome, especially in politics and especially when you’re talking about multiple outcomes at once.

That’s why toto~ crops up in newspaper-speak in neologisms such as totonomine (‘nomination sweep’), totopoltrone (‘parliamentary seat sweep’) or totocolle (literally ‘hill sweep’, using another piece of journalistic shorthand for the official residence of the president, which is located on Rome’s Quirinal Hill – thus the term means ‘president sweep’).

This week, though, there’s already a lot of speculation about the totoministri: or ‘minister sweep’ – who’ll make the cabinet in Italy’s new government, which may not be formed for weeks yet.

“Totoministri, the squad for Meloni’s government”. Headline on Corriere della Sera from September 27, 2022.

You’re unlikely to hear the term used in conversation, but it will definitely come in handy for making sense of Italian headlines between now and then.

Making sense of Italy’s infamously tumultuous politics, on the other hand… we’re working on it.

You can find all The Local’s latest political news reports here.

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

An earlier version of this article was originally published in 2019.

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Italian word of the day: ‘Così’

This Italian word is so useful to know.

Italian word of the day: 'Così'

The Italian language features plenty of very versatile little words, like allora, ecco, quindi, insomma, cioè, and così, which have a multitude of uses and come in handy in all sorts of situations.

Helpfully, as Italian native speakers will demonstrate during almost any phone call, these words can also be used as fillers at times when you’re not sure what to say – but are still talking anyhow:

Ecco, così è, così siamo messi, così è andata

There you go, that’s the way it is, that’s where we are, that’s how it went

Today’s word might just be the most versatile of them all.

Così is a word that you’ll hear used all the time in spoken Italian, in all sorts of different ways. Here are a couple that you’ve probably heard or used yourself:

È così – That’s how it is (literally ‘it is so’)

Basta cosi? – Is that all?

Per così dire – so to speak/as it were

Non si fa così – don’t do that/that’s not cool (literally ‘it’s not done like that’)

As you can probably tell, così in its most common usages translates roughly into English as so, thus, such, that, or like this.

You pronounce it ‘koh-zee’ – click here to hear some examples.

Much like the English ‘that’, così can also be used to add emphasis, as in così tanto (‘so much’) or così poco (so little), or to modify an adjective:

Non è così comune

It’s not that common

It’s used to mean ‘so’ as in ‘therefore’:

C’era sciopero dei treni, così non siamo potuti partire.

There was a train strike, so we couldn’t leave.

You could even use it like this to stress how strongly you feel:

Siamo così così dispiaciuti per ieri sera.

We’re so, so sorry for last night

But normally, when you see it doubled up, it has a different meaning.

Così così is the equivalent of ‘so-so’ in English, which means ‘not good, not bad’ – but is the sort of phrase you might euphemistically use to indicate that you’re not feeling well, or didn’t like something very much.

Com’era il film? 

Così così… ho visto di meglio.

How was the film? 

So-so, I’ve seen better.

(Here, you could also use the word insomma instead of così così)

Le case sono mantenuti solo così così.

The houses aren’t very well maintained.

These are just a few of the many possible uses of così, but we’re sure you can see why this is a word every Italian learner should be familiar with. 

È così utile sapere! (It’s so useful to know)

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