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Italian word of the day: ‘Ficcanaso’

You'll want to have a good ferret around this word to see what it's all about...

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

Find it hard to mind your own business? Can’t resist a little snooping around when the opportunity presents itself?

Then today’s word is for you. A ficcanaso (fee-ka-NAH-zoh) is someone who loves sticking their nose in other people’s affairs – in other words, a nosy parker.

Nosy Kardashians GIF - Nosy Kardashians Kim GIFs

Ficcare means to stick, shove, or poke, and naso is simply nose, so (as with nosy parker) from there to ficcanaso is just a short hop.

Tu sai benissimo che lei è solo una ficcanaso.
You know very well that she’s just a busybody.

When used as a noun, being a ficcanaso is often something you ‘do’ or ‘play at’, so you’ll see it phrased as fare il/la ficcanaso (we’ve seen this formulation before in the famous Neapolitan dialect song Tu vuo’ fa’ l’americano – ‘you want to act the American’).

Luisa fa davvero la ficcanaso oggi.
Luisa’s being a real nosy parker today.

Ficcanaso can equally be used as the adjective ‘nosy’ – note that the ending doesn’t change to agree with the subject it’s describing.

È sempre stato un po’ ficcanaso.
He’s always been a bit nosy.

Non mi piacciono i vicini ficcanaso.
I don’t like nosy neighbours.

Listen Up Listenin GIF - Listen Up Listenin Snooping GIFs

Another variation is ficcare il becco, or more commonly, mettere il becco – to ‘stick your beak’ into something that doesn’t concern you.

And if you’re one for a bit of eavesdropping, you’ll want to know the word origliare – to eavesdrop or listen in.

Mamma, non origliare le mie conversazioni per favore.
Mum, please don’t listen in on my conversations.

Mi sa che i bambini stanno origliando fuori dalla porta.
I think the kids are eavesdropping just outside the door.

What to learn more? Have a snoop around our Word of the Day archive and see what other Italian vocabular you can stick your nose into.

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: ‘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.