Mannaggia! Swear Words You Can Use in Front of Nonna

Nov 14, 2020 518

BY: Rebecca Winke

My first years in Italy were spent in Rome and rural Umbria, two areas of the Bel Paese in which swearing is a bit of a competitive sport and the threshold for offense particularly high. Since I didn’t really have anyone to help me navigate the choppy waters of blue language, I quickly became as foul-mouthed as a sailor without fully realizing how profane my chit chat really was.

One day, I stopped by the neighborhood cheese shop for some fresh ricotta. When I was told they were out, instead of a relatively tame “Darn!”, I unleashed a string of expletives so shocking that silence fell over the crowd. The shop owner (Elio, may he rest in peace) came around the counter and put his hand on my shoulder. “Who have you been hanging out with?!?” he wanted to know. “A signora doesn’t use that kind of language.” I stood silent, waiting for the floor to open up and swallow me whole.

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