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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘A bruciapelo’

We're going to give it to you point blank.

Italian expression of the day a bruciapelo
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you regularly read the cronache sections of your newspaper or watch Italian murder mystery shows, before long you’ll encounter the phrase a bruciapelo: ‘at point blank range’.

Literally, a bruciapelo means ‘to burn the body hair/fur’, referring to hunters shooting animals at such close range that the gunshot scorched their hide.

You’ll often hear the phrase used in descriptions of crime scenes:

L’autista e il passeggero sono stati colpiti a bruciapelo.
The driver and the passenger were shot at point blank range. 

Gli ha sparato a bruciapelo con una pistola nascosta nell’armadio.
She shot him at point blank range with a gun hidden in the wardrobe.

Pam Grier Smoking GIF by BrownSugarApp
 

Gli ho chiesto a bruciapelo se qualcosa non andava.
I asked him point blank if something was wrong.

Il mio capo mi ha chiesto a bruciapelo se avessi fatto domanda per un lavoro altrove.
My boss asked me outright if I’d applied for a job somewhere else.

A little beyond the capabilities of ‘point-blank’, a bruciapelo can also mean something more like ‘out of the blue’ or ‘all of a sudden’.

La domanda a bruciapelo mi ha preso alla sprovvista.
The unexpected question caught me off guard.

Mi ha dato la notizia a bruciapelo senza nemmeno avvertirmi di sedermi prima
She broke the news to me out of the blue without even warning me to sit down first.

Unexpected Getting Younger GIF - Unexpected Getting Younger Younger GIFs
 
Hopefully the next time you find yourself in an encounter a bruciapelo, you manage to dodge the bullet.

Is there an Italian word of expression 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: ‘Inciucio’

Here's a word you'll need to deal with ahead of Italy's elections.

Italian word of the day: 'Inciucio'

With two days to go until Sunday’s general election, there’s talk of a potential ’inciucio’ everywhere from the pages of newspapers to the heated conversations at sports bars up and down the country.

So what is an ‘inciucio’ and why does the word seem to be on everyone’s lips whenever Italy faces elections?

Briefly, ‘inciucio’ is political jargon that describes any type of dubious agreement or, if you will, compromise reached by two or more political parties generally holding opposite views and ideals.

There’s no direct translation into English, though a native speaker would probably refer to it as something of a dodgy backroom deal.

Non c’è una maggioranza chiara. 

Eh, figurati. Faranno il solito inciucio.

There isn’t a clear-cut majority.

Oh, that’s not new. They’ll go for the usual deal.

Such an agreement is usually necessary when forming a large coalition government, with terms largely assumed to be based on the “you scratch my back, I scratch yours” principle. 

READ ALSO: Salvini vs Meloni: Can Italy’s far-right rivals put differences aside?

With that definition in mind, it’s hard not to see why ‘inciucio’ is such a commonly-used word in Italy, a country whose political class has historically been partial to improbable alliances with their previously hated rivals. 

Cosa pensi delle prossime elezioni?

Preferisco non pensare. Ne ho avuto abbastanza di questi inciuci. 

What do you think of the next elections?

I’d rather not think. I’ve had enough of these political deals.

Purtroppo, con questa legge elettorale, l’inciucio tra partiti è l’unica via per avere un governo…

Fammi un piacere. Gli inciuci esistevano anche 60 anni fa, molto prima di questa legge elettorale.

Sadly, with the current electoral system, a compromise between different parties is the only way to form a new government.

Do me a favour. These types of agreements existed 60 years ago, well before the present electoral system.

While the noble art of the inciucio goes back a long way in the history of republican Italy, the term itself was only coined in 1995 by Massimo D’Alema, then secretary of the left-wing Democratic Party (PD). 

The expression only rose to popularity a couple of years later, when the founder of the term thought it fit to put the word to good use and reached a ‘non-aggression pact’ with the then-leaders of Italy’s right-wing coalition – the agreement went down in history as the patto della crostata or ‘pie pact’ – but we’ll keep that story for another time.

Ever since then, the term ‘inciucio’ has been regularly used by political commentators as well as the wider public to discuss the various power plays of the country’s major political forces.

For instance, the most classic of inciuci was at the foundation of Giuseppe Conte’s first cabinet back in 2018, when Matteo Salvini’s League and Luigi Di Maio’s Five-Star Movement unexpectedly found sufficient common ground to form a coalition government.

So, will we see another inciucio this time around?

Given the unpredictable nature of Italian politics, you’ll forgive us for not ruling out the possibility of another inciucio just yet.

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