Friday, October 5, 2012

Cabbages and Boxes

Image credit: Iain Farrell

Or: How to Avoid Swearing in Italian.

What I've found about swearing, and the words and phrases that are used to avoid swearing, is that the Italian's usually much more creative than what would be said in English. And to avoid swearing Italians more often than not use, yes you guessed it, the Italian word for 'cabbage/s' and 'boxes'.

Cabbage is cavolo, with the plural being cavoli. Box translates as scatola, or scatole for boxes. Don't ask me why they're used though,  but it's brilliant.

So if someone or something is breaking (rompere) your scatole, they're getting on your nerves. If your boxes are spinning (girare) then basically, you're not a happy bunny. A 'breaking of boxes' (rottura, the word for 'breaking' on its own is also used for the same purpose) is something that's difficult, annoying, or something that you just simply don't want to do. A person who's 'on your boxes' (stare sulle scatole) is someone you can't stand.

Cavoli, depending on the context, could either translate as 'gosh' or 'heck'. When used on its own in the plural form it's an exclamation. It's also used in its singular form in phrases and sentences, 'Che cavolo stai facendo?!' translates to 'What the heck are you doing?!'.

Yes, I've been here for very nearly four years now, but all these boxes and cabbages in everyday speech still totally amuse me.

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