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Cinque parole, 5 words.  This is the topic of this month’s #dolcevitabloggers linkup.  With thousands of parole piacevoli like strofinacci, aspirapolvere, sciaquare, zoppicare and strozzinaggio, I could have been awake every night for months trying to choose 5.  Instead, because I need my sleep, I chose words that I use, am frequently asked the meaning of and may not directly translate to English.  I also liked the way the words sound together.  If I ever write a memoir, I will call it ‘Uffa, allora, purtroppo, magari…..mannaggia’!

Uffa! (OOF∙fah) Uffa can be an exclamation of frustration, exasperation or impatience, depending on the tone, context and gesti –hand gestures.  It can be like a long, drawn out sigh uuuuuuffffffah, perhaps accompanied by an extended eyeroll, or more of a quick grunt. Uffa is often used by itself, but can also be used in a sentence.  ‘Uffa, che caldo!’ ‘Uuuuuufffffa, ancora non sei pronta!’.

Allora (al∙LOR∙ah) Allora is one of the most versatile words in the Italian language.  The meaning depends on the context, punctuation, and even where it appears in the sentence.  It comes from the Latin ‘ad illa horam’ which literally means ‘a quel tempo’ / ‘at that time’.  It can still be used in this way.  For example, Nonno might say ‘Allora si andava a scuola a piedi….in salita andata e ritorno’-Back then/at that time, we went to school on foot…..uphill both ways!’ It can also mean ‘since then’, for example ‘Da allora non ho più il telefono fisso’/ ‘Since then I no longer have a land line’.  ‘Prima di allora non c’era email’/before then/before that time, there was no email’.

Allora is also a ‘filler’ word to buy time, meaning ‘well, then’ ‘then’ or ‘so….’. ‘Allora, che facciamo?’ ‘Allora vediamo’.  Allora used on its own as a question can also imply impatience depending on tone of voice and gesti. For example a waiter may say ‘Allora?’/ so…..what’s it going to be?’ if the table is taking a long time to place an order.  At the start of a sentence it can mean ‘therefore’ or ‘in that case’, similar to the word ‘dunque’.  For example ‘Non mi piace il cibo cinese, alora andiamo al ristorante messicano’/I don’t like Chinese food, therefore let’s go to a Mexican restaurant’. ‘Piove, allora andiamo in macchina’/’it’s raining, so we will go by car’.  Allora should not be confused with ‘alloro‘ which is a laurel tree.

Purtroppo (poohr∙TROP∙poh)-this one is actually a straightforward translation.  It means unfortunately.  I included it because it sounded good with the other words, and I have this lovely incised marble purchased from La Bottega del Marmoraro on Via Margutta in Roma.  Purtroppo… quando si dice purtroppo, c’è sicuramente una fregatura!-unfortunately… ‘when the word unfortunately is used, there is definitely a con/ you are surely being screwed!’ 

Magari (mah∙GAH∙ree) usually means ‘if only’.  For example, if you ask someone ‘che faresti se avessi un milione di euro?’/What would you do if you had a million euro?’, they would probably respond with an emphatic ‘Magari!’/’If only’ or’ I wish!’ Magari can also mean ‘maybe/perhaps’-the same as the word forse.’ Magari domani non piove e andiamo in bici’/Perhaps tomorrow it will not rain and we can go biking’.

Mannaggia! (mahn∙NAJ∙geeah) Readers of my blog know I use this word all the time. It is not the Italian word for ‘manager’! It does not really translate but can be used like the English word ‘damn!’ or ‘rats!’.  Mannaggia comes from ‘male ne abbia’ which in dialetto becomes ‘mal n’aggia’ which kind of means ‘I don’t have bad’ or ‘may you have bad’, so it can mean something like ‘a curse on you!’.  It can also just be used as a term of frustration, similar to uffa! 19th Century Sicilian writer Giovanni Verga of Cavalleria Rusticana fame wrote ‘Malannaggia l’anima tua’/damn your soul!’.  This may be the origin of the word but it is unclear.  Mannaggia! Not so straightforward is it?  Mannaggia can be used alone or with other words, for example ‘Mannaggia la miseria’/damn poverty!’, ‘Mannaggia l’America’, ‘Mannaggia a te’, ‘Mannaggia a me’ and many others which are not so polite!


I hope you enjoyed my cinque parole and silly examples- just be glad I did not choose stronzo! This post is written as part of the monthly #dolcevitabloggers linkup, hosted by Jasmine of Questa Dolce Vita, Kelly of Italian at Heart and Kristie of Mamma Prada the 7th -14th of every month.

If you enjoyed my phonetic pronounciation, check out Italiano per Ristoranti, my Italian pronunciation guide. with downloadable PDF. Ciao, Cristina