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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.

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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.

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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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For members


Italian word of the day: ‘Delusione’

We hope this word doesn't disappoint.

Italian word of the day: 'Delusione'

Experiencing a delusione (deh-loo-zee-OH-neh) in Italian may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you need escorting to the psychiatrist’s chair.

That’s because while delusione may look and sound like its English cousin ‘delusion’, the word actually means something quite different: disappointment.

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The two nouns actually have the same root in the Latin dēlūsiō, meaning a deceiving or deluding, and delūdō, meaning to deceive, dupe, or mock.

But while the English ‘delusion’ has hewn close to the original Latin meaning over the centuries, delusione at some point branched off to its current, quite different, definition.

There’s not much in the way of information about exactly when and how that happened, but it’s clearly a short associative hop from feeling ‘deceived’ or ‘duped’ by things turning out differently to what you’d expected to feeling ‘disappointed’.

Che delusione.
How disappointing.

La festa era, purtroppo, una grande delusione.
The party unfortunately was a big disappointment.

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The adjective for ‘disappointed’ is deluso for a single masculine subject, changing to delusa/delusi/deluse if the subject being described is feminine singular/masculine plural/feminine plural.

Era delusa da come era venuta la torta.
She was disappointed with how the cake turned out.

Devo dire che siamo davvero delusi dal fatto che siamo stati trattati in questo modo.
I have to say that we’re very disappointed to have been treated this way.

A word you’ll often see used in combination with deluso/a/i/e is rimanere (ree-man-EH-reh): rimanere deluso.

You might correctly recognise rimanere as meaning ‘to remain’, and wonder why we’d use that word here – but rimanere also has an alternative meaning along the lines of ‘to become’, ‘to get’, or simply ‘to be’.

For example, you can rimanere incinta (get pregnant), or rimanere ferito (get hurt or wounded, for example in a car accident).

It’s also very often used with emotions, usually those experienced in the moment rather than long-term ones: you can rimanere sorpreso (be surprised), rimanere triste (be sad), rimanere scioccato (be shocked)… and rimanere deluso (be disappointed).

Sono rimasto molto deluso quando mi ha detto di aver abbandonato la scuola.
I was very disappointed when she told me she had dropped out of school.

Siamo rimasti delusi dalle condizioni della stanza d’albergo al nostro arrivo.
We were disappointed by the condition of the hotel room when we arrived.

With that, we wish you a weekend free of delusioni (disappointments)!

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