Very Innocent Italian Words You Need To Use Carefully

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Every language has its own puns and double meanings, but for language students, it is always tricky to find out when they are accidentally embarrassing themselves by using innocent words in inappropriate contexts.

Here’s a collection of flashcards representing 10 very innocent Italian Words you might want to use carefully while you’re in the process of learning Italian:

Patata /pa’tata/

patata flashcards italian words

First of all: in Italian, kitchen is the Pun Kingdom. The listener can misinterpret many words indicating vegetables or food as (not so) subtle allusions to NSFW content. The most common of these words is definitely patata (no need for translation), commonly used as a nickname for female private parts. So take care when you’re cooking and ask someone “dammi la patata“, for you might get slapped.

Pisello /pi’sɛllo/

pisello flashcards italian words

The counterpart of patata is pisello (pea), which can be used, especially in children’s language, to designate a penis. It is not that bad as a foul word, and it is actually preferable to other puns referring to the same body part. Nevertheless, misusing it can cause embarrassment in the kitchen!

Carciofo /kar’ʧɔfo/

carciofo flashcards italian words

Let’s stay inside our Italian Kitchen and let’s take into consideration a word, carciofo (artichoke), which can be easily used as an insult. A carciofo is a very naive person, not totally stupid, but definitely prone to be duped and conned.

Finocchio /fi’nɔkkjo/

finocchio flashcards italian words

This is very bad, and you should learn the double meaning of this word just to be sure you never use it in the wrong context. The term finocchio (fennel) is, in fact, used all over Italy to unflatteringly address homosexual people. Yes, we know Italian can be a sciovinist and sexist language, but we’re really trying to change!

Anno /’anno/

anno flashcards italian words

It is very common for foreign students to encounter problems in pronouncing double consonants. That is because not all languages have these phonemes in their “library.” Most of the time, mispronouncing a strong consonant does no harm, but in some cases, this can be utterly awkward: it’s the case of the word anno (plural anni, years), which, when pronounced with just one /n/ sounds like…. well, let’s just say that listening to someone who states that he or she has “25 ani” can be hilarious to an Italian native. If you don’t know this word, looking it up is probably best before you get yourself in trouble.

Scopare /sko’pare/

scopare flashcards italian words

Italian is such a wonderful language that it turns the tiresome and unpleasant action of sweeping (scopare) into the most enjoyable activity of all! That said, “scopare per terra” (literally “sweeping the floor”) is a pun from which no one can flee, nor foreigners or Italians.

Poppa /’poppa/

poppa flashcards italian words

If you’re not a sailor, this word can mean something utterly different from “the rearmost part of a ship or boat.” But maybe you’re thinking too dirty, since Italian poppa has nothing to do with poop; it is, instead, slang for “breast.” It also sounds onomatopoeic somehow…

Sega /’sega/

sega flashcards italian words

From the boat, we move on directly to carpentry: Italian sega (literally “saw”) is often used as an insult, equivalent to the English word “moron” or “idiot.” Abused in stadiums by football fans, the expression mezza sega usually refers to a player whose skills are not that outstanding.

Pacco /’pakko/

pacco flashcards italian words

Exactly like the sailor and the carpenter, the mailman can be in trouble too sometimes. The word pacco is often used to designate the groin, both in males and females. This pun, although it doesn’t sound that elegant, has been used in commercials and comedies, but we definitely do not encourage you to do the same.


lo-la flashcards italian words

And finally, behold the king of all puns: the third-person direct pronoun which, if used without an antecedent, means exactly that. This is why you should always listen to your Italian Language Teacher when he lectures you about the importance of pronouns in Italian. This is also why you should always pay attention to what you refer to when using a pronoun. Asking someone “me la dai?” with no clear reference to an object can be interpreted as sexual harassment, as well as wondering “non so dove metterlo“, where that lo doesn’t refer to anything near you, can mean that you are very lonely.

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