Money, Money, Money in the Italian Language

Feb 27, 2012

Blog piggybanks
Risparmiare, fare economia

 Saving Money

“Con la crisi gli italiani tornano parsimoniosi,” a newspaper headline recently declared. (With the crisis, Italians are becoming parsimonious again.)“Parsimonious” is not a word one hears very much in the English language, but in Italian la virtù della parsimonia o frugalità economica (the virtue of parsimony or economic frugality) dates back to the fourteenth century.

Words like frugale (frugal), parco (sparing) and economo (thrifty) never have gone out of style. Now Italians are tornando ai comportamenti virtuosi dei loro genitori (returning to the virtuous ways of their parents). Risparmiatori (savers or thrify people) are determined to tighten their belts (tirare la cinghia) and pinch pennies (guardare al centesimo)

According to a national survey, almost half—47 percent– say they fare la spesa in modo più oculato (are grocery shopping in a shrewder way); 31 percent have ridotto le dosi acquistate (reduced the amounts they purchase); and 24 percent utilizza quello che avanza per il pasto successivo (use leftovers for the next meal). Per via della crisi (because of the crisis), Italians say they have reduced le spese per l’abbigliamento (shopping for clothing) by 51 percent and spending per le vacanze (for vacation) by 50 percent.

Rather than going on a shopping spree (spese pazze) or buying items on a whim (per sfizio), Italians are sticking to the necessities (spese essenziali). Restaurants also are doing their part. More are offering customers an American invention: il doggy bag, which an Italian journalist had to define for readers as "il pacchetto con i resti del pasto, da consegnare ben confezionato al cliente" (the package with the remains of the meal, nicely packaged to be given to the customer).

Are you doing anything to tighten the purse strings (tirare i cordoni della borsa)? Are you cutting back on shopping (ridimensionare/ ridurre le spese)? Putting penies in a piggybank (salvadanaio)? Or simply being more attentive (essere /stare più attenti) to where your money goes? Just keep in mind: Il risparmio incomincia dal centesimo. (Saving  begins with a penny, or a penny saved is a penny earned.)

Words and Expressions

spendere e spandere –- to spend money like water

Non fare il passo più lungo della gamba! – Don’t take a step longer than your leg. In other words, be cautious! 

avere le mani bucate –- to have holes in the hands, used for someone who spends like there is no tomorrow

avere il braccino corto –- to have short arms, too short to reach one's pockets and pick up a tab

Dianne Hales is the author of LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language. 

Click here for a song singing the praises of "soldi, soldi, soldi" (money, money, money):


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