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Italian word of the day: ‘Beccare’

The range of uses for this verb could fill a list as long as your... beak?

Italian word of the day beccare
Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Used literally, beccare just describes one thing: the action of a bird pecking at something (becco = beak).

Le galline beccavano le briciole sulla terra.
The hens pecked at the crumbs on the ground.

This literal definition is just the tip of the iceberg however, because when used metaphorically, beccare is a chameleon of a verb that can change to mean a whole plethora of things.

These include to catch, run into, meet up with, get bitten (by a bug), bicker, boo, ‘bag’ yourself something good, or get landed with something bad. Phew.

Got all that? No?

Don’t worry, we’ll look at them in turn.

One of the most common metaphorical uses of beccare is to catch or get caught, by anyone from the police to your mum:

Se la polizia ci becca di nuovo saremo nei guai.
If the police catch us again we’re in trouble.

Ho beccato il mio fidanzato con un’altra.
I caught my boyfriend with another girl.

Si è fatta beccare con le mani nel sacco.
She got caught red-handed.

Sorry Season 2 GIF by The Lonely Island

In the same vein, you can use to word to talk about getting bitten (‘caught’) by an insect or mosquito:

Una zanzara mi ha beccato la gamba.
A mosquito bit my leg.

Or running into (‘catching’) someone unexpectedly.

Ho beccato Elisa in centro, abbiamo fatto una bella chiacchierata.
I ran into Elisa in town, we had a nice chat.

Mi fa piacere che ci siamo beccati.
I’m glad we ran into one another.

Korean Drama Hello GIF by The Swoon

When used in the reflexive form (beccarsi), the verb can mean either to land yourself something desirable, or get stuck with something undesirable (it’s understood from context which of the situations you’re in):

Brava, ti sei beccata la fila più veloce.
Good job, you picked the fastest queue.

Vi siete beccati un viaggio gratis!
You got yourselves a free trip!

Mi sono beccato il coronavirus durante un viaggio in Inghilterra.
I got the coronavirus on a trip to England.

Grazie a te ci siamo beccati tutti una punizione.
Thanks to you we all got ourselves a detention.

The reflexive form can also be used informally to mean to bicker or squabble:

Giacomo e Francesca si beccano in continuazione, non ne posso più delle loro liti.
Giacomo and Francesca argue constantly, I’m sick of their fights.

Tired Sick Of It GIF by TLC

Or to mean to meet up or catch up with someone: 

Ci becchiamo stasera per fare due chiacchiere?
Shall we meet up this evening for a chat?

Ci becchiamo dopo!
Catch you later! (lit., ‘we’ll catch each other later’).

Finally, to beccare a person can mean to show disapproval of someone or even boo them, usually in the context of a musical or theatrical performance:

Quando gli attori hanno finito lo spettacolo, il pubblico li ha beccati senza pieta.
When the actors had finished the show, the audience booed them without mercy.

With all that newfound knowledge, the world’s your oyster: see if you can go out and beccare a friend, a criminal, or a winning lottery card (but not a cold or a booing).

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.