I have been absent from the blog lately, but I have amazing colleagues who help me keeping up with the bread idioms project. After Greek, Romanian and French, today we learn more idioms in Italian, thanks to Clara Giampietro from Winged Translations. I learned many new things myself, so I have no doubt you will love her contribution; don’t forget to follow her on Twitter and Facebook! Thanks again Clara for your wonderful article! We are Italians. We cook pasta and pizza like angels. We make the perfect coffee. We talk with our hands. We use imaginative idioms. We can’t resist bread.
Rarely there is an Italian meal that doesn’t include bread. From North to South there are over 350 different types of bread. Bread is one of man’s greatest discoveries, and Italians have been making bread for thousands of years– ancient tools and ovens offer evidence about that. Bread is so fundamental to Italian life and culture that I could find some more bread idioms to add to the list compiled by Giulia in her first post on this series. What is fascinating me is that something as simple as bread– basically flour, water, salt and yeast– can take on so many figurative meanings in idioms. I love list, in alphabetical order. So let’s start! Assicurarsi il pane per la vecchiaia. Literal translation: To be sure of bread for one’s old age. What it means: To put away money for retirement. E.g.: Ogni domestica, vedendo che la povera sessagenaria si era assicurato il pane per la vecchiaia, era invidiosa di lei. => Every servant in the town, seeing that the poor sexagenarian was sure of bread for her old age, was jealous of her. [“Eugenia Grandet” by Honoré de Balzac. Italian translation from the French by Giorgio Brumacci, English translation from the French by Katharine Prescott Wormeley.] Avere il pane sicuro. Literal translation: To have bread for sure. What it means: To have a safe job that provides you with the money you need to live on. E.g.: Ha accettato quell’offerta di lavoro e ora ha il pane sicuro. => She accepted that job offer and now she has a safe job (= she has bread for sure). Distinguere il pane dai sassi. Literal translation: To know the difference between bread and rocks. What it means: To understand things or people. E.g.: […] ma Patricio Aragonés non voleva tanto ma voleva di più, voleva che gli volessero bene, perché questa è una di quelle che sanno distinguere il pane dai sassi, signor generale, vedremo se non lo vedrà anche lei quando la vede […] => […] but Patricio Aragonés didn’t want that much, he wanted more, he wanted her to love him, because this girl is one of those who know where the tune comes from, General, you’ll see when you get a look at her. [“The Autumn of the Patriarch” by Gabriel García Márquez. Italian translation from the Spanish by Enrico Cicogna, English translation from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa.] Essere come pane e cacio. Literal translation: To be like bread and cheese. What it means: To get along very well together. E.g.: Ti vorrei presentare una mia amica e collega. Siamo come pane e cacio. => I’d like you to meet a friend and colleague of mine. We get along extremly well (= we are like bread and cheese). Essere necessario come il pane. Literal translation: To be necessary as bread. What it means: Since bread is the most essential food, this is something you say referring to things you feel as necessary to live as eating or breathing. E.g.: Per i traduttori una connessione Internet veloce e affidabile è necessaria come il pane. => A fast and reliable Internet connection is imperative (= necessary like bread) for translators. Far cascare il pane di mano. Literal translation: To drop bread from hand. What it means: To be discouraged; to make lose hope, interest or the desire to keep going. E.g.: Non farti cascare il pane di mano, se non vedi risultati immediati. => Do not be discouraged (= do not drop bread from hand), if you do not see instant results. Guadagnarsi il pane. Literal translation: To earn one’s bread. What it means: To work to make a living. This is equivalent to the Romanian idiom “A câștiga o pâine”. E.g.: Si guadagna il pane traducendo manuali tecnici. => She makes a living translating technical manuals (= she earns her bread translating technical manuals). Il pane mangiato è presto dimenticato. Literal translation: Eaten bread is soon forgotten. What it means: Beneficiaries often forgot kind deeds or favours once they have been done. Mettere a pane e acqua. Literal translation: To put someone on bread and water. What it means: To punish. It refers to a cruel practice consisting in feeding prisoners only bread and water. E.g.: Chi protestò fu messo a pane e acqua con le caviglie nei ceppi e messo in una stanza della scuola. => People who protested were put on bread and water with their ankles in a set of stocks that he had set up in a schoolroom. [“One hundred years of solitude” by Gabriel García Márquez. Italian translation from the Spanish by Enrico Cicogna, English translation from the Spanish by Gregory Rabassa.] Misurare il pane. Literal translation: To weigh the bread. What it means: To give very little to eat or to be stingy with food or money. With the last meaning, in Italian we usually use the idiom “Avere le braccine corte” (literally “To have little short arms”, e.g.: His arms are so short he can’t reach his wallet). Non si vive di solo pane. Literal translation: A man cannot live by bread alone. Meaning: This phrase comes from the Bible and means that people need things such as spirituality, art, music and poetry as well as food, in order to live a happy life. Per un tozzo di pane. Literal translation: For a piece of bread. What it means: For next to nothing, for peanuts– as in the Greek idiom “για ένα κομμάτι ψωμί”. E.g.: Non lavoro per un tozzo di pane. => I don’t workfor a piece of bread. Spezzare il pane della scienza. Literal translation: To break the bread of science. What it means: To educate; to impart knowledge. E.g.: Come traduttori è nostro dovere spezzare il pane della scienza con i nostri clienti sugli effetti positivi della traduzione sui loro risultati economici. => We translators must educate our clients on the beneficial impact of translation on their business performance. Vendere come il pane. Literal translation: To be sold like bread. What it means: A way to say that something will be very popular and sold quickly. This idiom is equivalent to the French “Partir/se vendre comme des petits pains”. E.g.: Per la traduzione del suo sito Web si è rivolto a un traduttore professionista e ha venduto tutti i suoi prodotti come il pane. => He used a professional translator to translate his web site, and he sold all his products quickly (= he sold all his products like bread). Thank you so much for having me on your awesome blog, Giulia! It was a real pleasure to write this post on one of my favourite food. After all this talking about bread, I’m getting hungry! Aren’t you?