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EUROVISION

‘Zitti e buoni’: The Italian vocab you need to understand Italy’s Eurovision winner

Italy's winning Eurovision song might have you rocking out, but do you know what it means? Here's a closer look at the lyrics to "Zitti e buoni" by Måneskin.

'Zitti e buoni': The Italian vocab you need to understand Italy's Eurovision winner
You'll be singing along with Maneskin in no time. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

No doubt you’ve heard Måneskin’s Zitti e buoni a few times by now: viewers of the Eurovision Grand Final were treated to two performances on Saturday night alone after the glam rockers from Rome won the song contest for Italy thanks to a massive public vote.

READ ALSO: Italy wins Eurovision: ‘We just want to say to the whole world, rock’n’roll never dies!’

But even after several listens, non-native Italian speakers probably won’t have caught all the words. That might be to do with the breakneck pace of frontman Damiano David’s singing, or there might be a few words and phrases in there you’re not familiar with yet.

To help you sing along – with feeling – we’ve picked out the most useful Italian vocabulary you can learn from Måneskin’s lyrics.

Zitti e buoni: the lyrics in English

Let’s start with the title: Zitti e buoni means “quiet and good”, but in the context of the song the words are more like a command – “shut up and behave”.

The next thing to know is that there are actually two sets of lyrics to the song – a clean version and one that’s slightly more risqué. The band performed both at the Eurovision final: the family-friendly version first, and the original (ruder) lyrics once they’d won.

The video below shows the original lyrics, which feature some choice words you’re very likely to hear used in Italy. Just be warned, some of them aren’t exactly polite.

Give Zitti e buoni another listen, this time with the Italian lyrics side-by-side with their English translation:

The song is essentially about refusing to conform – and finding other misfits to keep you company. In other words, classic glam rock.

The most useful words and phrases to remember

fra’ – short for fratelli, “brothers”. It’s like saying “bro”.

siga’ – short for sigarette, “cigarettes”. As you’ll have noticed, spoken Italian often drops a few syllables from the ends of words.

scusami – “sorry” or “excuse me”. Find out more about how to apologise in Italian here

ci credo – “I believe (in it)” or “I’m sure”. It’s a phrase that can be said sincerely or sarcastically.

tanto – this word can mean everything from “a lot” to “many” to “very much”, depending on how it’s used. Here it means “so much”. Find out the different ways to use tanto here.

vi conviene – the verb convenire, “to suit” or “be convenient”, can also be used to tell someone what their best (or most advisable) option is, in your opinion. It’s like saying “you’d better” do such and such. In this instance, the band is saying: “you lot had better” behave.

i coglioni – “balls” or “nuts” (and not the edible kind). Touching them, as described here, can be a good-luck gesture in Italy, which is why the line is translated as “you better touch wood”. 

Damiano David of Måneskin not quite touching his “coglioni”, but close. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

zitti – the plural form of zitto, “quiet”. You can also use it as an instruction, in which case it becomes “zip it” or “shut up”. Find a full definition here.

buoni – the plural of buono, “good”. Just like in English, the word can be used in different contexts to mean everything from “nice” to “kind” to “tasty” to “capable”. Here it means “well-behaved” – just like you’d tell someone to “be good” when you want them to follow the rules.

tipo – this word can mean either “guy” or, as it does here, “like”. Find out the difference here. 

mo – “now”, or simply “well”. It’s a dialect word that’s pure Roman, just like Måneskin themselves. Read a full explanation here. 

‘sti – spoken Italian doesn’t just chop off the end of words, sometimes it gets rid of the beginning. ‘Sti is short for questi, “these”. 

quindi – “so” or “then”. This word comes up all the time in conversation: find a full definition here

fuori (di testa) – by itself, fuori means “out(side)”, like in the line sto sempre fuori (“I’m always out”). But fuori di testa means “out of your mind” or “crazy”. Find out more here.

diverso/a/i – “different”. One aspect that’s tricky to translate from Italian to English is how the ending of an adjective tells you who it describes: in the chorus, this adjective starts off applied to the singer himself (sono diverso), then to a woman (sei diversa), then to a whole group of people (siamo diversi). 

READ ALSO: 

lacrime – “tears”. You’ll hear this lovely, tragic word more than you might expect in Italy: find out why here

l’ebrezza – “intoxication”, both in the sense of being under the influence, and euphoria. A negative drug test proved that Måneskin’s lead singer was high on only the latter the night of the Eurovision final.

purtroppo – “unfortunately”. Find out exactly how to use it here.

a galla – “afloat” or “on the surface (of water)”. Stare a galla can have a figurative sense too, like “keeping your head above water”.

mi manca l’aria – “I can’t breathe”. Literally translated, it means “I’m lacking air”. 

cazzo – this is one of the words that was edited out for the band’s first Eurovision performances: it means literally “dick”, but is frequently used as an interjection more like “fuck”. The line (la gente… non sa di che cazzo parla) means “people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about”. A family-friendly alternative you can use instead is cavolo (literally, “cabbage”). 

… and the Danish word you need to know too

The band’s name is not Italian but Danish: it means “moonlight” and was picked at the suggestion of their half-Danish bassist, Victoria De Angelis. We’re reliably informed by our colleagues at The Local Denmark that the correct pronunciation is “morn-eh-skin”.

Måneskin with the Italian and Danish flags. Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

In Italy you’ll hear the band referred to as i Måneskin, or “the Måneskins”. 

Discover more Italian vocab in The Local’s language section.

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ITALIAN LANGUAGE

Ten of the best podcasts for learners of Italian

Listening to podcasts is a great way to immerse yourself in a new language. For everyone from beginners to advanced learners, here's a list of audio shows that will help improve your Italian.

Ten of the best podcasts for learners of Italian

For beginners to intermediate learners:

In 2022, there’s a vast range of podcasts for people wanting to learn Italian from scratch – here we’ve selected just a few.

Since beginners will often struggle to understand even slow Italian, all these podcasts come with a paid subscription tier that provides access to transcripts and other accompanying materials.

That said, you don’t need to pay anything to simply listen to any of these shows. Give them a try, and see what you can pick up for free.

Coffee Break Italian

The creators of this show are on to a winning format: stop native speakers of a language in the street to ask them questions on a given theme; slowly repeat their answers and translate them into English; replay the interviews so the listener can fill in the gaps they missed the first time around.

It’s a simple but highly effective technique, allowing learners to acquaint themselves with the language as spoken by real Italians while giving them the tools they need to extract meaning from strong accents and colloquial turns of phrase.

News in Slow Italian

This podcast does exactly as advertised: gives you the week’s major international news in a (very) slow Italian.

READ ALSO: Ten of the best TV shows and films to help you learn Italian

It’s good for keeping up with current events as well as learning the language. One particularly useful function of the paid tier is that it allows you to hover over certain phrases in the transcript and see the English translation.

Italiano Automatico

Alberto Arrighini has taken his highly popular Youtube channel, Impara l’Italiano con Italiano Automatico, and made each episode available to listen to via the Italiano Automatico podcast.

While those who opt to listen via the podcast will miss out on the captions and slides Arrighini provides in his Youtube videos, it’s ideal for busy listeners who want to learn on the go. 

Each episode is roughly 10 minutes long and tackles different aspects of Italian such as regional accents, conjunctions, and answers to questions like when to use essere vs stare.

Which podcasts can help you learn Italian?

Which podcasts can help you learn Italian? Photo by Nick Fewings on Unsplash.

Quattro Stagioni

This bite-sized podcast from Alessandra Pasqui takes the form of five-minute long episodes covering everything from recipes to travel diaries from Italian cities to biographies of famous Italians.

The programme’s short length makes it perfect listening for walks to the shops or when waiting in line at the post office.

Simple Italian

Simone Pols hosts this programme for intermediate Italian speakers. It’s another basic set up: Pols takes as his starting point a theme or a recent experience and spends around 20 minutes taking about it in slowed-down Italian.

READ ALSO: Seven songs that will help you learn Italian

Recent episodes including his musings on include why it’s important to say no, the definition of beauty, and what he learned from spending six weeks in Palermo.

For advanced learners: 

These podcasts were made for native Italian speakers, but you don’t need to be one yourself to enjoy them.

Practically non-existent until just a few years ago, the Italian podcasting industry has flourished in recent years. Whether you’re into true crime, long-form narrative journalism or science, these days there’s something for everyone.

Here are just a few well-known Italian podcasts for advanced speakers wondering where to start.

Veleno

This 2017 podcast is often referred to as ‘Italy’s Serial’, both for its in-depth investigative journalism and the fact that it’s credited with introducing large swathes of the population to the concept of podcasts altogether.

The story centres around a Satanic Panic that gripped the Bassa Modenese territory in the late 1990’s, leaving huge destruction and grief in its wake.

READ ALSO: The top five free smartphone apps for learning Italian

It’s an impressive piece of longform narrative journalism that makes for uncomfortable listening in some parts and will make you burn with righteous indignation in others.

Radiografia Nera

The Radio Popolare news station didn’t exist before 1976: but what if it had? 

That’s the starting point for this podcast from Tommaso Bertelli e Matteo Liuzzi, who in each episode recount a different crime that took place in post-war Milan up until the year the station was founded, sourcing most of their facts from archived court documents and police reports.

You’ll hear plenty of stories about bank robberies and stick-up jobs, but also learn of broader historical crimes such as attempted coups.

The hosts have a rapid-fire style of delivery, so Italian learners may want to slow the podcast down or go back and listen more than once to fully grasp the whole story – but it’s good practice if you want to challenge yourself.

XXX. Photo by Siddharth Bhogra on Unsplash.

Limoni

L’Internazionale‘s Annalisa Camilli has won awards for her in-depth reporting on migration to Italy, but there’s one story from her past that she always kept at arm’s length – until now.

In Limoni, which was released to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the G8 protests in Genoa, Camilli looks back at what happened at the 2001 event in which hundreds of protestors were injured and over forty unarmed people were set upon and tortured by police as they prepared to go to bed.

Camilli, who attended the protests as a young person, examines the events in light of information that has come out in the years since, bringing a new clarity to what happened and why things went so badly wrong.

Il gorilla ce l’ha piccolo

Despite its irreverent name (which translates roughly as ‘Gorillas have small d**ks’), this animal-focused podcast contains a genuine treasure trove of information about the animal kingdom.

Presented by the biologist Vincenzo Venuto, each episode takes a broad relational theme, such as families or cheating, and examines how these things play out among various animal species. In looking at how animals handle aspects of sex, birth, ageing, death and grief, Venuto gives us a greater insight into our own species.

Problemi

From Jonathan Zenti, creator of the excellent (sadly only three-episode-long) English language podcast Meat, comes Problemi. In each episode Zenti talks about something he has a problem with, helped along by interjections from one of his own voice-altered alter egos.

In other hands, this might sound like a relatively dull basis for a podcast, but not in these ones. Zenti’s persona as a host is prickly and impious, but equally capable of deep compassion. His lack of interest in self-censorship and sometimes uncomfortably frank disclosures can make this mostly humorous show surprisingly painful at certain moments. It’s one of the few I’ll sometimes return to.

Do you have any recommendations for an Italian podcast we haven’t mentioned here? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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