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LANGUAGE AND CULTURE

Italian expression of the day: ‘Fa un freddo cane’

Here's an idiomatic phrase to get you through the winter in Italy.

Italian expression of the day: 'Fa un freddo cane'
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

If you’ve only ever visited Italy in summer before, it can be quite a shock to find out just how cold it can get here in the winter months.

When the cold is really biting, simply saying fa freddo (it’s cold) doesn’t feel like enough.

Today’s expression is used in spoken Italian on those freezing cold days.

– Fa un freddo cane!

– it’s freezing cold!

The phrase literally translates as “It makes a cold dog”, which doesn’t seem to make a lot of sense. It really means something more like “it’s dog cold!”

You might already know that instead of using the verb essere (to be), Italian uses fare (to do or make) when talking about the temperature. So the phrase fa freddo literally translates as ‘it makes cold’ rather than ‘it is cold’. Same with fa caldo (it’s hot).

But what have dogs got to do with it?

Much like with the English phrase “it’s raining cats and dogs”, clearly no household pets are involved. The ‘dog’ is used here as an intensifier; a (polite) way of emphasising how awfully cold it is. 

Similarly, the French would say Il fait un froid de canard! (It’s duck cold!)

You might also hear the variation fa un freddo da cani.

It means exactly the same thing, but uses the plural cani (dogs).

Other ways to comment on the low temperature in Italian include:

– “fa freddissimo!”

– It’s very cold

– si gela
– It’s freezing (literally “one freezes”)
 
– si muore di freddo
– It’s terribly cold (literally “one dies of cold”)
 
Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian word of the day: ‘Delusione’

We hope this word doesn't disappoint.

Italian word of the day: 'Delusione'

Experiencing a delusione (deh-loo-zee-OH-neh) in Italian may not be pleasant, but it doesn’t mean you need escorting to the psychiatrist’s chair.

That’s because while delusione may look and sound like its English cousin ‘delusion’, the word actually means something quite different: disappointment.

Disappointment Disappointed GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Food Review GIFs

The two nouns actually have the same root in the Latin dēlūsiō, meaning a deceiving or deluding, and delūdō, meaning to deceive, dupe, or mock.

But while the English ‘delusion’ has hewn close to the original Latin meaning over the centuries, delusione at some point branched off to its current, quite different, definition.

There’s not much in the way of information about exactly when and how that happened, but it’s clearly a short associative hop from feeling ‘deceived’ or ‘duped’ by things turning out differently to what you’d expected to feeling ‘disappointed’.

Che delusione.
How disappointing.

La festa era, purtroppo, una grande delusione.
The party unfortunately was a big disappointment.

Mike Ehrmantraut Breaking Bad Che Delusione No Che Vergogna GIF - Disappointment Disappointed Oh No GIFs

The adjective for ‘disappointed’ is deluso for a single masculine subject, changing to delusa/delusi/deluse if the subject being described is feminine singular/masculine plural/feminine plural.

Era delusa da come era venuta la torta.
She was disappointed with how the cake turned out.

Devo dire che siamo davvero delusi dal fatto che siamo stati trattati in questo modo.
I have to say that we’re very disappointed to have been treated this way.

A word you’ll often see used in combination with deluso/a/i/e is rimanere (ree-man-EH-reh): rimanere deluso.

You might correctly recognise rimanere as meaning ‘to remain’, and wonder why we’d use that word here – but rimanere also has an alternative meaning along the lines of ‘to become’, ‘to get’, or simply ‘to be’.

For example, you can rimanere incinta (get pregnant), or rimanere ferito (get hurt or wounded, for example in a car accident).

It’s also very often used with emotions, usually those experienced in the moment rather than long-term ones: you can rimanere sorpreso (be surprised), rimanere triste (be sad), rimanere scioccato (be shocked)… and rimanere deluso (be disappointed).

Sono rimasto molto deluso quando mi ha detto di aver abbandonato la scuola.
I was very disappointed when she told me she had dropped out of school.

Siamo rimasti delusi dalle condizioni della stanza d’albergo al nostro arrivo.
We were disappointed by the condition of the hotel room when we arrived.

With that, we wish you a weekend free of delusioni (disappointments)!

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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