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EUROVISION

‘Zitti e buoni’: The Italian vocab you need to understand Italy’s Eurovision winner

Italy's winning Eurovision song might have you rocking out, but do you know what it means? Here's a closer look at the lyrics to "Zitti e buoni" by Måneskin.

'Zitti e buoni': The Italian vocab you need to understand Italy's Eurovision winner
You'll be singing along with Maneskin in no time. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

No doubt you’ve heard Måneskin’s Zitti e buoni a few times by now: viewers of the Eurovision Grand Final were treated to two performances on Saturday night alone after the glam rockers from Rome won the song contest for Italy thanks to a massive public vote.

READ ALSO: Italy wins Eurovision: ‘We just want to say to the whole world, rock’n’roll never dies!’

But even after several listens, non-native Italian speakers probably won’t have caught all the words. That might be to do with the breakneck pace of frontman Damiano David’s singing, or there might be a few words and phrases in there you’re not familiar with yet.

To help you sing along – with feeling – we’ve picked out the most useful Italian vocabulary you can learn from Måneskin’s lyrics.

Zitti e buoni: the lyrics in English

Let’s start with the title: Zitti e buoni means “quiet and good”, but in the context of the song the words are more like a command – “shut up and behave”.

The next thing to know is that there are actually two sets of lyrics to the song – a clean version and one that’s slightly more risqué. The band performed both at the Eurovision final: the family-friendly version first, and the original (ruder) lyrics once they’d won.

The video below shows the original lyrics, which feature some choice words you’re very likely to hear used in Italy. Just be warned, some of them aren’t exactly polite.

Give Zitti e buoni another listen, this time with the Italian lyrics side-by-side with their English translation:

The song is essentially about refusing to conform – and finding other misfits to keep you company. In other words, classic glam rock.

The most useful words and phrases to remember

fra’ – short for fratelli, “brothers”. It’s like saying “bro”.

siga’ – short for sigarette, “cigarettes”. As you’ll have noticed, spoken Italian often drops a few syllables from the ends of words.

scusami – “sorry” or “excuse me”. Find out more about how to apologise in Italian here

ci credo – “I believe (in it)” or “I’m sure”. It’s a phrase that can be said sincerely or sarcastically.

tanto – this word can mean everything from “a lot” to “many” to “very much”, depending on how it’s used. Here it means “so much”. Find out the different ways to use tanto here.

vi conviene – the verb convenire, “to suit” or “be convenient”, can also be used to tell someone what their best (or most advisable) option is, in your opinion. It’s like saying “you’d better” do such and such. In this instance, the band is saying: “you lot had better” behave.

i coglioni – “balls” or “nuts” (and not the edible kind). Touching them, as described here, can be a good-luck gesture in Italy, which is why the line is translated as “you better touch wood”. 

Damiano David of Måneskin not quite touching his “coglioni”, but close. Photo: KENZO TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

zitti – the plural form of zitto, “quiet”. You can also use it as an instruction, in which case it becomes “zip it” or “shut up”. Find a full definition here.

buoni – the plural of buono, “good”. Just like in English, the word can be used in different contexts to mean everything from “nice” to “kind” to “tasty” to “capable”. Here it means “well-behaved” – just like you’d tell someone to “be good” when you want them to follow the rules.

tipo – this word can mean either “guy” or, as it does here, “like”. Find out the difference here. 

mo – “now”, or simply “well”. It’s a dialect word that’s pure Roman, just like Måneskin themselves. Read a full explanation here. 

‘sti – spoken Italian doesn’t just chop off the end of words, sometimes it gets rid of the beginning. ‘Sti is short for questi, “these”. 

quindi – “so” or “then”. This word comes up all the time in conversation: find a full definition here

fuori (di testa) – by itself, fuori means “out(side)”, like in the line sto sempre fuori (“I’m always out”). But fuori di testa means “out of your mind” or “crazy”. Find out more here.

diverso/a/i – “different”. One aspect that’s tricky to translate from Italian to English is how the ending of an adjective tells you who it describes: in the chorus, this adjective starts off applied to the singer himself (sono diverso), then to a woman (sei diversa), then to a whole group of people (siamo diversi). 

READ ALSO: 

lacrime – “tears”. You’ll hear this lovely, tragic word more than you might expect in Italy: find out why here

l’ebrezza – “intoxication”, both in the sense of being under the influence, and euphoria. A negative drug test proved that Måneskin’s lead singer was high on only the latter the night of the Eurovision final.

purtroppo – “unfortunately”. Find out exactly how to use it here.

a galla – “afloat” or “on the surface (of water)”. Stare a galla can have a figurative sense too, like “keeping your head above water”.

mi manca l’aria – “I can’t breathe”. Literally translated, it means “I’m lacking air”. 

cazzo – this is one of the words that was edited out for the band’s first Eurovision performances: it means literally “dick”, but is frequently used as an interjection more like “fuck”. The line (la gente… non sa di che cazzo parla) means “people don’t know what the fuck they’re talking about”. A family-friendly alternative you can use instead is cavolo (literally, “cabbage”). 

… and the Danish word you need to know too

The band’s name is not Italian but Danish: it means “moonlight” and was picked at the suggestion of their half-Danish bassist, Victoria De Angelis. We’re reliably informed by our colleagues at The Local Denmark that the correct pronunciation is “morn-eh-skin”.

Måneskin with the Italian and Danish flags. Photo: Kenzo TRIBOUILLARD / AFP

In Italy you’ll hear the band referred to as i Måneskin, or “the Måneskins”. 

Discover more Italian vocab in The Local’s language section.

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ITALIAN ELECTIONS

The Italian vocabulary you’ll need to follow the elections

Italian political goings-on are famously unpredictable, but they don't have to be impossible to understand. Here's a guide to the words and phrases you need to know ahead of Italy's crucial elections this Sunday.

The Italian vocabulary you'll need to follow the elections

Italian politics is hard enough to follow even for those with a lifetime’s experience of the political system and fluency in the language. For foreigners trying to follow events, it can be extremely confusing.

But once you’re armed with a bit of background knowledge and some specifically Italian political language, Italian politics does get easier to understand (at least, most of the time).

READ ALSO: Your ultimate guide to Italy’s crucial elections on Sunday

With Italy preparing for crucial general elections on Sunday, September 25th, it’s especially important to be able to at least get the gist of what’s going on.

From vocabulary basics to the peculiarities of Italian ‘politichese’, here’s The Local’s guide to the language you’ll need when following the election and political news in the coming weeks.

The basics

You may already have a good grasp of some basic political vocabulary, such as partiti politici (political parties) and i sondaggi (opinion polls).

L’elezione is ‘the election’, but Italians use the plural form (le elezioni) for general elections since voters will be choosing representatives in both the upper and lower houses of parliament.

The names for the two parts of parliament are la Camera dei Deputati (Chamber of Deputies – the Lower House) and il Senato della Repubblica (the Senate of the Republic – the Upper House).

READ ALSO: An introductory guide to the Italian political system

Italians vote on September 25th in elections expected to bring easy an victory for far-right and right-wing populist parties. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

The system is anything but simple: it’s a mixed voting system with some seats allocated via proportional representation (‘un sistema proporzionale‘) and others by first-past-the-post (uninominale secco).

Don’t be alarmed if, on election day (il giorno di voto), you hear people talking about urns, or urne. Like its English equivalent, an ‘urna‘ is a kind of vase or container, but in Italian it’s used to refer to the ballot box, rather than anything to do with funerals. In Italian, andare alle urne means to ‘go to the polls’, or to cast your vote.

You do this using a scheda elettorale, or ballot paper – in fact, voters get two ballot papers – one for each house of parliament – at the polling booth (cabina elettorale). Or you might not: abstaining from voting (astensionismo) is increasingly common in Italy. 

As soon as voting ends, we’ll get an exit poll (this one’s easy – ‘gli exit poll’) and by the early hours of the morning, we should have the early results (risultati preliminari)

The parties – and campaign slogans

Italy has a large number of political parties and an ever-shifting political landscape, meaning some of the bigger names in this election may already be familiar while others were previously unknown.

Here’s a quick rundown of the main parties in the mix this time, their names in both Italian and English, and the slogans they’re using:

Brothers of Italy (Fratelli d’Italia, or FdI).

Slogan: ‘Pronti’ – The hard-right party expected to take the largest share of the vote has the single word slogan pronti, meaning ‘are you ready?’

READ ALSO: Political cheat sheet: Understanding the Brothers of Italy

Is Italy ready for election season, and a new government? – A campaign poster shows hard-right Brothers of Italy party leader Giorgia Meloni, who is likely to become the next prime minister. Photo: Marco BERTORELLO / AFP

The League (Lega)

Slogan: ‘Credo’ – meaning ‘I believe’. Matteo Salvini’s right-wing populist party was told off by Catholic bishops for using a slogan with religious themes in attempt to appeal to the country’s conservative, religious voters. Posters have since featured various longer slogans, including ‘credo negli italiani‘ (I believe in the Italians).

Five Star Movement (Movimento Cinque Stelle, M5S)

Slogan: ‘Dalla parte giusta’ – The populist party now headed by former PM Giuseppe Conte has chosen a simple slogan meaning ‘on the right side’.

Democratic Party (Partito democratico, PD)

Slogan: ‘Scegli’ – another one-word campaign slogan, this one means ‘choose’. Political analysts say it’s being used by Italy’s second-biggest party as a way to highlight its opposition to Brothers of Italy.

Italian Democratic Party (PD) leader Enrico Letta is asking voters to ‘choose’ his party over the ruight-wing coalition. Photo by Vincenzo PINTO / AFP

Azione + Italia Viva (Action and Italy Alive)

Slogan: ‘Italia, sul serio’ – These two small centrist parties are running together for election, presenting themselves as the sensible, moderate choice with the campaign slogan ‘Italy, seriously’. 

Forza Italia (Variously translated as ‘Go Italy’ or ‘Forward Italy’)

Slogan: none. Silvio Berlusconi’s party has chosen not to use one particular slogan this time, though some campaign posters feature the words ‘oggi più che mai‘, meaning ‘now more than ever’.

Find our complete guide to who’s who in the Italian elections here.

Italian ‘politichese’

Political-speak (or ‘politichese’) can be as dense and impenetrable in Italian as in any other language. 

But it can also be illuminating to learn a few of the words and phrases used in political discussions (and by journalists in particular) to describe the peculiarities of the Italian system.

Here are a few examples:

Toto-nomi

The prefix toto- is used in Italian news reports wherever speculation abounds: it comes from the football pools or totalizzatore calcistico (‘Football totalizer’, or football sweepstake), known as Totocalcio for short.

Totonomi then translates as something like ‘name sweepstake’. It’s an adaptation of toto-nomine (‘nomination sweep’) – which at election time is used for speculation about the most widely-tipped candidates for various offices.

You’ll also see toto- in totopoltrone (‘parliamentary seat sweep’), or totoministri (‘minister sweep’, referring to who will make the cabinet in a newly elected government).

A variation on this is fantapolitica, which similarly comes from fantacalcio, or Italian fantasy football. This word is used to talk about hypothetical election results, government coalitions, and future cabinet members, whether these are realistic or improbable: fantasy politics, if you will.

Former Prime Minister Matteo in parliament. Photo by Andreas SOLARO / AFP

Ipotesi

An ipotesi is, as you might guess, a hypothesis or theory. When used in newspaper headlines, it fulfils a similar role to toto~, allowing journalists to speculate as to what may have happened or be about to happen.

In the context of election news, you’ll usually see ipotesi followed by the last name of a potential nominee, e.g. ‘l’ipotesi Melonii‘ or ‘l’ipotesi Conte‘, along with discussion of the likely success of that person’s policy or candidacy.

Trasformismo

A time-honoured Italian tradition, this is the act of switching your political allegiance depending on how the wind blows.

Gattopardismo

Un gattopardo is a leopard, so what is ‘gattopardismo‘? Not too distant from trasformismo, it’s a word used to describe the act of adapting your attitudes to the changing political climate in order to maintain a position of power and influence – something political figures in Italy are regularly accused of doing.

The concept was described in the book Il gattopardo by Giuseppe Tomasi di Lampedusa, the most frequently-quoted line of which is: “Se vogliamo che tutto rimanga come è, bisogna che tutto cambi” (If we want everything to remain as it is, everything must change).

Poltrone

Why would a power-hungry politician be keen to deny that he is “hunting for armchairs”? In this case, such a statement has nothing to do with furniture shopping. Una poltrona does of course mean “armchair” or “seat” and it can be used to talk about a job or position within a company, or in this case, a government. 

READ ALSO: Q&A: Your questions answered on how Italy’s elections work

In a political context, a politician on the hunt for poltrone is attempting to gain important ‘seats’ or positions for his party members within the government. Expect to see this word in news reports following the election.

Political nicknames

Some politicians and political parties in Italy have well-known nicknames.

For example, the League is sometimes referred to as ‘Il Carroccio’, the name for a medieval ox-drawn altar used for pre-battle church services. This was used as a symbol by the party back when it was called the Northern League.

And League leader Matteo Salvini is often referred to by his supporters as ‘Il Capitano’, or ‘The Captain’, which seems to be a reference to his preferred policy of leaving migrant rescue ships stranded at sea.

Meanwhile, Italia Viva leader and former PM Matteo Renzi is known as “il rottomatore” (“the scrapper”, or “the wrecker”) due to his unpopular habit of destabilising coalition governments.

Silvio Berlusconi meanwhile is often referred to in media reports as “l’immortale” (the immortal) because of his long political career, which continues today despite numerous sex scandals, a tax fraud conviction, regular health scares, and his advancing age.

There are of course plenty of other, more insulting nicknames used in Italian politics, which we won’t list here.

Is there another word or phrase you think we should add to the list? Please get in touch by email and let us know.

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