And if you are squeamish about sexual innuendo, sexual references, references to private parts, bad words, bad taste, or using private parts as expletives and for emphasis, or just for all-around good fun? Well, let’s just say this post isn’t for you.
Let’s just say Roman culture in general probably isn’t for you. Come here on vacation. If you decide to move here, only frequent English-speaking circles. But don’t you dare stay and mingle too much with the locals, or else you’re going to end up feeling offended. And believe me, if you want to “do as the Romans do” you damn well sure better not be easily offended. We love our locker-room talk around these parts.
Oh, because PEOPLE! How the Romans love vulgarity as part of their irresistible charm!
And OH! How their swears almost always revolve around vulgar ways to say certain body parts. The fun truly never ends. I’ll try to contain myself.
I must say that as an American girl who is fluent in Italian, to get your master’s degree you must conquer Roman “dialect,” which truly in my opinion isn’t an incomprehensible dialect as much as it is a form of unique, gutterish slang and particular accent. Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE ME SOME ROMANACCIO. Oh yes indeedy! Can I share with you my inner secrets to make a person think you know Roman in just 10 easy steps?
Ok. So let’s just start with the nitty gritty and get it out of the way.
I’m going to go ahead and put this out there: I am in love with the rainbow flavor variety of expressions to describe a prostitute. Oh my God: they never end. You can use them to insult a person, to talk about a U-turn (just like flipping a bitch!), or to simply describe with your own special flair the type of prostitute you’re referring to. Here goes nothing:
1) The all-time favorite classic. Mignotta (mih-NYOHT-uh). It almost sounds demure, but it’s not. I’d literally translate this to mean “whore” but Italians will inevitably try to convince you it means “bitch” in English. No. Not the way we would mean it. Trust me. It’s the other.
2) Roman prostitute. You’re really local when you can slip into conversation a phrase like “Yeah that woman’s makeup was like she was just coming off work on the Salaria” or “Oh my God she looks like she should be out on the Colombo.” The Salaria is your all-purpose go-to road when you want to make an off-hand prostitute reference. Use it and you’ll sound like you’ve lived here for ages. The ladies of the night aren’t only night owls on the Salaria. Oh, heavens no. They’re out there at 10 am if you head to the shopping mall. Cover your children’s eyes.
3) Hard-core fun. BAGASCIA (ba-GAH-shuh). Or even better, throw in vecchia, as in VECCHIA BAGASCIA. Oh, I just love an old whore. See also puttana, and one of my other personal favorites, BALDRACCA (ball-DRAH-kuh). All equally good times.
Ok, enough already. Geez!
How about cheating? You know that everyone’s doing it around here, don’t you? Ok, I won’t exaggerate. But truly, the concept of faithfulness takes on new meaning here, which is why we need specifically colorful phrases to describe when someone is cheating or getting cheated on. Because you know we all know it’s happening and we all talk about it like the weather.
4) Classic. “Mettere le corna” a.k.a. “putting the horns” on someone, that someone being the “cornuto“. I tried to research the etymology of this for you but got cross-eyed in historical references. If you feel braver than I do and can read in Italian, check this out. Otherwise, trust that some emperor guy used to steal married women, imprison their husbands, and then triumphantly have a stag’s head hung out in front of the poor dude’s house. And so that became the symbol of a guy whose wife was sleeping with another man. Or something. The hand gesture can also be used to ward off bad luck. (Not to be confused with stringy-haired rockers at an AC/DC concert, of course.) That is, if the man doesn’t say instead…
5) FAMME GRATTA’ which basically means “let me scratch” as in LET ME SCRATCH MY DAMN BALLS because holy effing crapoly man. Whatever you just said? That was like, I need to JINX to the max because dear God let’s hope something like that doesn’t happen to me and therefore not only will I SAY “let me scratch” but then I will try to discreetly proceed to actually DO SO. In public. (And you think I’m joking. Truth is stranger than fiction, my dear friends.)
6) But before I forget, get really fancy if you want, and say that a guy has a BASKET OF SNAILS ON HIS HEAD which is like, wow, a lot of horns, right? Un cesto de lumache in testa. And you’re sure to look local and super in-the-know.
Um. Ok. So we’ve covered prostitutes, and cheaters, and bad luck mixed in for good measure. And I’m only up to 6. Where to go from here? Back to the basics.
7) If you come to Rome, you must certainly perfect your most convincing rendition of the expression “AHO’!” also written by Romans as AO’ and also pronounced AO?? It’s very all-purpose. Which reminds me of a fun parody from years back of a song that was popular, which was originally about childlike wonder called “Quando i bambini fanno oh” and got turned into the Roman version “Quanno i romani fanno aho'” Lots of good expressions in this one. For advanced students of Roman dialect:
8) And how about NON ROMPE or even better NUN ME ROMPE ER CAZZO which is like really vulgar don’t break my balls, man! Actually that would be NUN ME ROMPE LE PALLE so that other one is like don’t break my dick. No more like don’t break my cock. EEK. Sorry. I promise I’m trying to be clean, but I live in Rome, and therefore:
9) CHE TE LO DICO A FARE? Otherwise known as FUGGEDDABOUTIT. Check this out. First, watch in English. Then, watch in Italian. Sheer genius.
But let me save one of the quintessential delights for last. I give you:
10) MA vàttel’a ppijà ‘n der culo! Yes, I dare you to say that five times fast! Romans love anything about taking it up the ass. I’d estimate they have, oh, somewhere around about three bajillion references to getting it there, taking it there, giving it there–good lord, the list goes on and on. But this will cover you in most situations. Add in a dashing sweep of the arm and hand if you’re so inclined. Kind of like a real insult in Roman dialect, but truly more often it’s used between friends to say something vulgarly equivalent to the meek-in-comparison English “go take a hike!” HA! We’re SOOO not as creative as Romans, people.
And just to prove that many people in this world, like myself, might have either waaay too much free time on their hands, or simply stay at home on Friday nights and try to entertain themselves like I have been doing here, I now give you your moment of Zen: