Italian and Roman dialect

While walking through the city, hanging out in bars and restaurants, shopping at the supermarket, talking to people, you will have surely noticed how standard Italian in Rome is accompanied by the Roman dialect very frequently.

Essentially, everyone, sooner or later, will let a few words in “Roman” slip out! If you are already getting to know Italian quite well, you will probably understand most of the words that are said or, at least, you will have a pretty good idea, as Roman one is among the most comprehensible dialects in Italy, because the sentence structure remains essentially the same as in literal Italian and only the words change (you were lucky!).

Alberto Sordi

Alberto Sordi

Have you ever seen (and understood) a movie with Alberto Sordi, with Carlo Verdone or with Gigi Proietti? These are examples of great comedy and verve in the Roman dialect.

Some words, expressions and idioms are in fact hilarious – sometimes very colourful – and typical of the good nature and straightforwardness of the Romans. Among the great figures of literature Gioacchino Belli and Trilussa, with their poems in the authentic dialect, are not to be missed.

You will have already noticed that the Roman dialect is characterized mostly by elisions (or apocopation) in nouns and verbs, by the doubling of consonants, by a poor use of verb tenses and the weakening of the double “r”. “Che stai a ffa’?” instead of “cosa stai facendo?” (What are you doing?), “Voglio dormi’ ” rather than Voglio dormire” (I want to sleep), “oggi sono libbero” (today I am free), “ ’sta pasta è proprio bbona” instead of “questa pasta è molto buona” (this pasta is very good), ”, “Devo fa’ quarche ccosa” instead of “devo fare qualche cosa”, “ho fatto un erore”, “ce so’ cascato in pieno” as opposed to “ci sono caduto in pieno” (I was really fooled), “stavo a scherza’ ’” instead of “stavo scherzando” (I was joking), “gnaa faccio” rather than “non ce la faccio” (I can’t do it) and so on. You will have no doubt already heard many of those.

Giuseppe Gioachino Belli

Giuseppe Gioachino Belli

Shall we to talk about the Roman ways of saying? There is an infinite number of expresions and some are real pearls, funny creations and worthy of note, some used very often and others less. Knowing a few can be useful as a note of folklore and also to feel comfortable in a conversation between true Romans:

  • “M’è preso un abbiocco” (I was caught by sleepiness): is an expression used to express the drowsiness after eating, especially after lunch, that leads to a nap.
  • “Ti ho preso cor sorcio in bocca” (I caught you with a mouse in your mouth): is used to express catching someone red handed, intent on doing something they should not.
  • “Me sto a morì de pizzichi” (I am a dying of pinches): it means being bored to death, being in a situation without incentives and without interest.
  • “Consolarsi con l’ajetto” (to console oneself with garlic): resort to not very effective solutions to address a disappointment or a problem, such as treating a disease using garlic.
  • “Voglia de lavora’ sartame addosso” (Desire to work, jump on me): is an expression used when a person does not have the slightest desire to work.
  • “Essere anticaja e petrella/essere dell’epoca di Checco e Nina” (Being junk and pebbles/being from the era of Checco and Nina: expression used to indicate something or someone very old and out-dated, belonging to an undefined ancient time.

You could write a book on the idioms of the Roman dialect, there are so many, each with its own peculiarity and its funny side. For a more in-depth analysis you just need to go around the city to the more working-class neighbourhoods and stop to talk to some older person, you’ll discover a whole world!

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