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Italian word of the day: ‘Buonismo’

There's not much good to say about this word.

Italian word of the day buonismo
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Have you ever been accused of being a buonista?

It may come from the word buono, but that doesn’t mean it’s a compliment. 

buonista is a do-gooder or goody-two-shoes, whose actions can be characterised as buonismo – something like ‘do-gooding’ or ‘do-good-ism’.

Ne ho abbastanza di questi buonisti.
I’ve had enough of these do-gooders.

Giovanni è un buono, non un buonista.
Giovanni’s a good man, not a goody two shoes.

Basta con questo buonismo.
Enough of this do-gooder-ism.

(Note that buonista in the singular always ends in an ‘a’ even if it’s describing a man).

goody two shoes GIF by Chelsea Handler

The word’s invention is often credited to a Professor Ernesto Galli Della Loggia, though it apparently was already in use in literary criticism at least a decade before.

Nonetheless, it does seem to have been Galli Della Loggia who brought the term into today’s political and journalistic discourse via multiple editorials he penned for the Corriere della Sera newspaper in 1995 concerning the arrival of migrants in Italy.

“Chi non vede gli immigrati. La solidarietà “buonista” del centrosinistra” (‘Those who don’t see immigrants. The ‘do-gooder’ solidarity of the centre-left’) was a line that reportedly appeared in one of the pieces (none of which can currently be found in Corriere’s online archives).

From that point on, and with increasing frequency from around 2015 onwards as the migrant crisis began to accelerate, the term was used by hard-line nativists to deride all those who opposed anti-immigration policies.

It’s essentially the Italian equivalent of ‘social justice warrior’ or (if you’re from an earlier generation) ‘bleeding heart liberal’.

In one particularly ghoulish example, the right-wing newspaper Il Giornale infamously reported on two mass drownings of migrants in the Mediterranean in 2013 and 2015 respectively as “Trecento morti di buonismo”  and “Settecento morti di buonismo” (“Three hundred/Seven hundred dead of do-gooder-ism”).

The word is a particular favourite of far-right League party leader and former deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, who in the immediate aftermath of the Bataclan Paris attacks tweeted “Buonisti = complici #Parigi” (“Do-gooders = complicit #Paris).

Things reached such a fever pitch in 2017 that the anti-mafia writer Roberto Saviano wrote an article for the Repubblica newspaper in which he issued a (presumably rhetorical) call for the word to be abolished altogether.

If buonista is ever used against you as an insult, there’s no need to take it too much to heart – it’s one of those words that tends to say more about the person using it than it does anyone else.

Is there an Italian word of expression you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

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Italian word of the day: ‘Noioso’

We assure you there's nothing boring about this word...

Italian word of the day: 'Noioso'

A slow internet connection, getting stuck in traffic, a lengthy cabinet address: they’re all tedious, dull, tiresome, mundane: in a word, boring, or in Italian, noioso (nwoy-OH-zoh).

È noioso fare lo stesso lavoro ogni giorno.
It’s boring doing the same job every day.

Molte persone pensano che il golf sia uno sport noioso.
Lots of people think golf is a boring sport.

Rambo Sylvester Stallone Che Noioso Che Noia Annoiato GIF - First Blood Sylvester Stallone How Boring GIFs

Like most Italian adjectives, the o ending changes reliably to a/i/e depending on whether the noun being described is masculine or feminine, singular or plural:

Non vuole fare una vita noiosa.
She doesn’t want to live a boring life.

Sempre gli stessi discorsi noiosi.
Always the same boring old speeches.

If something’s really boring, there’s a neat way of getting that across: you can add the intensifier issimo/a/i/e on the end to make noiosissimo (nwoy-oh-ZISS-eem-oh) and its equivalents.

Il ragazzo con cui sono uscita ieri sera era molto noiosissimo.
The guy I want out with last night was super boring.

Racconta sempre le stesse storie lunghe e noiosissime.
She always tells the same long and very boring stories.

In a spoken context, you might also sometimes hear people exclaim ‘Che noia!’ (kay-NWOY-ah!) – how boring!

Noia Annoiato GIF - Noia Annoiato Annoiata GIFs

What about the state of being bored?

Italian actually has two ways of expressing this. You can just ‘be’ bored, just as we are in English:

Sono annoiata senza di te.
I’m bored without you.

Vieni con noi se sei annoiato.
Come with us if you’re bored.

… or you can ‘bore yourself’ (which doesn’t actually mean that you’re the architect of your own boredom, as it would in English – it’s just another way of saying you’re bored).

Dice che a scuola si annoia da morire.
She says she’s bored out of her mind at school.

Se ti annoi, vai al cinema a vedere il nuovo film di Ridley Scott
If you’re bored, go to the cinema to watch the new Ridley Scott film.

Bored Noia GIF - Bored Noia Noioso GIFs

Note that because being bored is a state of being rather than an action, we use the imperfect rather than the perfect tense to describe having been bored in the past:

Quando ci annoiavamo a scuola, facevamo scherzi all’insegnante.
When we were bored at school, we used to play pranks on the teacher.

Se eravate così annoiati perché non mi avete detto niente?
If you were so bored why didn’t you say anything to me?

You’ve made it to the end: we hope that means non vi abbiamo annoiato (we haven’t bored you)!

Is there an Italian word of expression you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.