‘Look Who’s Talking’: idiomatic expression with the verb to talk

‘Parole parole’ (‘words words’) is the title of a famous tune sung by Mina (one of the greatest Italian singers). But how many words a day do we pronounce, in particular we Italians? A lot, since we like to chat and we really like talking. In everyday language, we also often use idiomatic expressions (or sayings) that contain the verb to speak, some of which are very imaginative. You need to know them if you want to be perfectly fluent in the language and fully understand all the conversations you will take part in. Shall we talk about it?


Has anyone ever said to you: ‘parla come mangi‘ (talk like you eat)? If it has happened, know that it means that your language is too polished, overly complex and difficult and that it would be better if you spoke in a more simple and direct way. Precisely how you eat, because you cannot eat in an overly complicated way, right? Actually it is an expression that is used less and less often because there is, nowadays, a tendency to speak in a way that is even too simplified and basic and the people who use a worldly language are becoming a rarity. To these people we can apply the expression ‘parlare come un libro stampato‘ (to talk like a printed book), using a vocabulary that is overly complex as if taken directly from a demanding book.

Have you ever talked behind someone’s shoulders? Let us hope not, but it could certainly have happened. Talking behind ones shoulders refers to the habit of not saying things directly to the person concerned but to someone else, often as a form of gossip or because you do not have the courage to deal directly with the person involved. We talk behind someone’s back when we criticize them instead of dealing directly with the person and saying what we think, although once in their presence we would show friendship and liking.

With all the words we say and the speeches we give during the day, we might find ourselves ‘parlare a vanvera’ (talk nonsense). What does it mean? It means speaking at random without saying anything of meaning or rational, but just inconsistent talk and without thinking about what we are saying. The etymology of this expression is uncertain but it has been used for a very long time and it is certainly very effective.

parlare italiano

Did you ever happen to ‘parlare al vento o parlare al muro‘ (talk to the wind or to talk to the wall)? It’s not a great feeling and it happens when you talk to a person who does not seem to be listening to anything that you are saying, as if our words would end dispersed in the wind or bounce against a wall. It often happens when you are giving advice or suggestions that the other person is not going to recognise because perceived as unpleasant.

We conclude hoping that you are not people who like to ‘parlarsi addosso‘ (talk to oneself), that is, people who really like to talk about themselves, brag or just who love talking so much while being pleased by it, almost as if they were reciting a monologue for the sheer pleasure of it. It is not a good habit, of course!

We hope to have spoken loud and clear without any misunderstanding. Good chit-chat!

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