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Italian expression of the day: ‘Mandare a quel paese’

There's one place you never want an Italian to send you.

Italian expression of the day mandare a quel paese
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If someone tells you they’ve been mandato a quel paese – literally ‘sent to that land/town’ – don’t imagine they’re packing for a nice holiday.

It means they were told to get lost, go to hell, or worse – in this case the Italian phrase is much less vulgar than its range of possible English counterparts.

Le ho chiesto se qualcosa non andasse e mi ha mandato a quel paese!
I asked her if something was up and she told me to go to hell!

Avrei dovuto mandarlo a quel paese.
I should have told him to get lost.

The euphemistic substitution of ‘that place’ for ‘hell’ is thought to have arisen because it was at one time considered bad luck to name the latter, carrying with it the risk of summoning evil spirits.

These days you can, however, send someone to the devil (mandare al diavolo), which has basically the same meaning as mandare a quel paese.

Avete appena mandato al diavolo l’unica persona che poteva aiutarti.
You just told the one person who could have helped you to go to hell.

If you want to tell someone to get lost in person, you can order them to ‘andare a quel paese’ – to go to hell.

It’s important to remember to conjugate andare so it agrees with whoever you’re telling to get lost – vai for one person, andate for more than one, and you can technically even use the formal vada to ‘politely’ send someone to hell.

– Quel maglione sembra un po’ trasandato.
– Era un regalo di mia nonna. E vai a quel paese!
– That jumper looks a bit past it.
– It was a gift from my gran. And you can go to hell!

Tu e papà non capite nulla di me, andate a quel paese!
You and dad don’t understand anything about me, get lost!

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As a footnote, there’s a small Italian town in the province of Matera in Basilicata that for many years was referred to as simply quel paese, based on a superstition that the village was cursed.

The legend goes that at a local councillors meeting in Matera the 1940s, the mayor of the town of Colobraro called for the chandelier in the room to fall in his head if he had told any lies. A couple of days later the chandelier did fall, causing several injuries and possibly death.

From that point on, Colobraro was feared by its neighbours, who refused to say its name, referring to it only as quel paese.

When the Italian anthropologist Ernesto de Martino paid a couple of visits to the village in the 1950s, he was warned off entering it by inhabitants of nearby towns. He later suffered severe engine damage to his car and recorded that the local who had been due to welcome his team died in a road accident shortly before the meeting.

These days, Colobraro makes the most of its spooky reputation, putting on a series of events in August and September named Sogno di una notte a QUEL Paese (‘Dream of a night in THAT town’) in which visitors are invited to attend various theatrical and musical performances and sample the local produce.

Maybe on reflection it’s not always such a bad thing to be mandato a quel paese.

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: ‘Pippone’

Allow us to engage in a little discourse on the meaning of this Italian word.

Italian word of the day: ‘Pippone’

Have you ever found yourself in the company of someone holding forth for many minutes at a time, wondering how you ended up in this situation and when you can make your exit?

Then you’ve experienced a pippone (pronunciation available here): a relentless and self-indulgent monologue from which listeners can’t easily escape.

The pippone-dispenser might be lecturing you because of something you’ve done, or just sounding off on a favourite subject. If they regularly try to corner you for this purpose, they might be an attaccabottoni.

The word originates from Roman dialect – more on its origins directly below – but is used and understood throughout Italy.

Preparatevi ad un bel pippone.
Get ready to be buttonholed.

Ce la fate a risparmiarmi il pippone sul non bere e fumare?
Could you spare me the lecture about not drinking and smoking?

A word of warning to new users: you’ll want to be careful about exactly how you deploy the term, as it comes from the word pippa, i.e. the act of male masturbation.

Adding ‘-one’ (OH-neh) on to the end of a noun makes it a bigger version of itself (see nasone), so you can get a pretty good idea of the broader connotations of pippone.

The Italian language site Italiano Semplice points out that if you want to talk about someone launching into a speech, you should use the phrase attaccare un pippone rather than iniziare un pippone.

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That’s because while the former clearly refers to someone giving a speech, the latter could be mistaken for something more vulgar.

Mi ha attaccato un pippone allucinante.
He gave me such a horrendous lecture.

So che ti sto attaccando un pippone, ma ti volevo dare quante più informazioni possibili.
I know I’m giving you a bit of a speech, but I wanted to provide as much information as possible.

Note that this is the formulation you’ll to use when talking about delivering a pippone; the verb pippare refers neither to speechifying nor self-pleasure, but the act of snorting drugs like cocaine.

That’s enough of a pippone for one day.

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