I have been focusing on Italian idioms quite a lot in my work, recently.
If you have been following this blog for a while now, you may remember that I have written a couple of posts on idioms that are related to food, other two on idiomatic phrases that have to do with animals, a post about Italian ways of saying that contain numbers and another one about idioms that are related to numbers.
Moreover, I am currently working on an Instagram project called 100 Days of Italian Idioms, where I share an idiom a day. This means that I am constantly thinking about Italian idioms, all day, every day. I pay attention to every single sentence I hear and I have come to the conclusion that the Italian language is full of idiomatic expressions – making it more interesting and more difficult at the same time.
Another thing I have realized is that there is a whole range of idioms I hadn’t taken into consideration before. While thinking about the language and paying such an attention to the way we speak, I have noticed that there are a lot of idiomatic expressions that come from movies, tv shows, commercials and even songs.
In a certain sense, they are even more difficult to grasp than “standard idioms” because they refer to some common knowledge, some shared pop culture that you get only if you have been living in a country for quite a while. Actually, even calling them idioms is wrong because some of them are just sentences that have a specific, implicit meaning that is known to just a few people – some kind of insider jokes – if you see what I mean.
Since using this kind of expressions can be quite tricky for a non-native speaker, I thought whether a post about them would be useful or not, but then I have come to the conclusion that all these sentences and phrases are now deeply rooted in the Italian language and so reading about them can be an interesting journey throughout Italian pop culture.
So I went ahead and selected 12 idiomatic expressions that come from TV commercials. While brainstorming, I have come up with a wider selection of popular phrases but I have decided to narrow it down to the ones that come from TV, since these are the most popular ones. If you are interested in the topic, though, I can write a similar post focusing on other idioms in the future. Just let me know!
But let’s dive in now, shall we?
1. C’è nessuno?
Actually, the best way of saying this would be: “c’è nessuuuuuunooooo?” (Is there anybody in there?) and you would say it to someone who doesn’t understand something or seems a bit absent-minded. This sentence comes from a commercial of a type of water that had a very low content of sodium and the question was pronounced by a sodium particle who was alone in the water.
2. Cosa vuoi di più dalla vita?
This question means ‘what more do you want from life?’ and if you ask such a question to an Italian, he or she would probably make a joke and tell you “un Lucano!“. This is taken from a 2000s advertisement for the Amaro Lucano, where a lady having a romantic dinner with a guy gets a message from her friends with the abovementioned question and happily replies that she wants the liquor.
3. Milano da bere
This slogan is so deeply rooted in Italian culture that some people might not even know that it comes from advertising. It is commonly used to refer to Milan in the 80s, which was really booming in terms of business and fashion industry. This sentence was used in a commercial by Amaro Ramazzotti, which was so convincing that even made me fall in love with the city, even if I was still a little kid.
4. Potevamo stupirvi con effetti speciali
This phrase is usually used to introduce a topic, stating that you could have done something really extraordinary – it means ‘we could have surprised you with special effects’ – but instead you did something quite normal. It comes from Telefunken, that in the 80s promoted its new TV sets with such slogan. By the way, if you say this phrase to an Italian, you’d most likely get “ma noi siamo scienza non fantascienza” as a reply. 🙂
5. Nel mulino che vorrei
This is a way more recent expression, which comes from an advertising campaign by Barilla. This Italian brand has a range of cookies and packaged sweets named Mulino Bianco (white mill), so the phrase has a clear reference to it. Its meaning is ‘in my ideal mill’ and the commercial used it to describe all the beautiful things you could find in such mill. It is used in conversation when stating something you’d like and that it is quite unlikely to happen.
6. O così o Pomì
We return to the 80s with this slogan, which belongs to a TV commercial for a tomato sauce. The slogan, which meant ‘this way or Pomì’ referred to the fact that Pomì was the only alternative to making the sauce yourself. We sometimes use it in conversation in reference to things where you have basically no choice, where there is no other option you can choose.
7. E chi sono io, Babbo Natale?
The 80s are definitely a goldmine of TV slogans, many of which are now a staple in the Italian language. This can undoubtedly be said of this question, which means ‘who am I, Father Christmas?’, asked by the owner of a cookie factory who complained that the factory was giving too much to its customers. We use it when someone asks us too much or wants too much from us.
8. Per tutto il resto, c’è Mastercard
This sentence, which means ‘for everything else, there’s Mastercard’, is jokingly used in reference to something which is really expensive or is impossible to be bought. It comes from an old advertisement by Mastercard, that listed a number of things that could be bought using that credit card.
9. Così tenero che si taglia con un grissino
Back to the 80s again for another super popular commercial that promoted a type of canned tuna, stating that it was so soft that it could easily be cut using a breadstick only (this is what the slogan means). Such phrase is getting a bit out of fashion but can still be used to describe a type of food or something to eat that is very soft.
10. Vuole fare la modella!
I really don’t know if millennials know what this means but I was reminded of this phrase by a neighbor of mine today, so I bet it is still used, at least among us older people. The phrase means ‘she wants to be a model’ and this is what a cute girl said of her sister who refused to eat a roasted chicken prepared with a brand new oven – only to change her mind seeing how yummy the chicken was.
11. Mi vuoi tutta ciccia e brufoli?
This phrase means ‘do you want me all fat and pimples?’ and it is what a girl told his boyfriend in an 80s TV commercial (I couldn’t find this one, I am sorry) who was offering her a chocolate snack. Needless to say, we jokingly use it when somebody offers us something to eat that is really yummy but not exactly healthy.
12. Silenzio, parla Agnesi
After all this words and phrases and all this talking, let’s end with some silence. This phrase means ‘silence, Agnesi is speaking’ and it comes from an advertising campaign which showed a dinner where everybody was silent because busy eating and enjoying pasta. It is less used now but in the past the common reply to someone saying “silenzio” was “parla Agnesi“.
13. L’uomo Del Monte ha detto sì
Here comes another very popular sentence, which comes from the 80s but is still part of our language today. This phrase means ‘Mr. Del Monte said yes’ and is taken from a commercial where Mr. Del Monte visited its orchards to approve the quality of the fruits. It is jokingly used referring to the fact that someone has finally approved something.
Did you know any of them? Let me know, I am super curious!
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