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Italian word of the day: ‘Stangata’

Don't let this word give you a nasty shock.

Italian word of the day - Stangata
Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

As soaring energy prices keep driving up the cost of living – Italy’s inflation hit a 37-year high earlier this week – you might have overheard friends or colleagues complaining about the latest ‘stangata’. 

But what exactly do native speakers mean by ‘stangata’ and why is the word so relevant now?

Stangata’ is a fairly common word in spoken Italian and speakers generally use it to refer to any event that causes – or is expected to cause – significant damage to one’s personal finances. 

Usually, the event in question is something that couldn’t possibly be anticipated, as in the following cases:

E’ arrivata la bolletta del gas stamattina…Dobbiamo pagare 300 euro.

Oddio, che stangata!

We got the gas bill this morning…It’s 300 euros.

Oh God, what a blow!

Quest’anno, abbiamo pagato 600 euro per i libri scolastici di Matteo.

Però, che bella stangata!

This year, we’ve paid a total of 600 euros for Matteo’s textbooks.

Wow, that’s a big hit!

READ ALSO: Back to school in Italy: how much will it cost, and how can you save money?

As the above examples show, ‘stangata’ is mostly used as part of an exclamatory remark or reply and it is usually preceded by ‘che’, which is used here as an adjective and is roughly equivalent to the English ‘what a …’. In this context, the most appropriate English translations are ‘blow’ and ‘hit’.

Don’t forget: if you’re planning on using the word in this way, it’s vital that you do so according to Italian etiquette, that is with eyes nearly popping out of your head and the most dramatic look of bafflement painted across your face. Feel free to practice in front of a mirror to perfect the ‘stangata’ face.

Naturally, the word can also be used in a regular sentence and with far less intensity, like so:

Potremmo fare un bel viaggio a fine mese. 

Non penso proprio. Con l’ultima stangata delle bollette, è già tanto se ci arrivo a fine mese.

We could go on a trip at the end of the month.

I really don’t think so. Judging by the latest increase in energy bills, I’ll be lucky if I make it to the end of the month.

Now that you broadly know how and when to use the word, you might be wondering where it comes from.

Well, ‘stangata’ comes from ‘stanga’, which is a largely disused word indicating the wooden board (or pole) people once used to shut their front door or windows from inside the house. 

Following a very common Italian linguistic pattern – just think of ‘bastone’ and ‘bastonata’ – ‘stangata’ literally means ‘a blow dealt with a wooden board’. 

At this stage, it’s pretty clear why the word is used to refer to substantial financial damage – getting hit with a stanga is as painful as losing a big lump of earnings.

READ ALSO: From coffee to haircuts: How the cost of living varies around Italy

It’s also worth noting that some Italians might use the word ‘salasso’ instead of ‘stangata’. Just like ‘stangata’, ‘salasso’ refers to any relatively hard financial blow, though its original meaning is quite different as it refers to the ancient (and, luckily, now-defunct) medical practice known as ‘bloodletting’.

L’abbonamento mensile per il trasporto pubblico è salito a 150 euro.

Ammazza, che salasso. Non è accettabile.

The monthly public transport pass has gone up to 150 euros.

Ouch, what a blow. That’s unacceptable. 

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

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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.