Gratuitous Italian

Everything About Fiction You Never Wanted to Know.
Jump to navigation Jump to search
For extra flavor to your meal, add Italian.

Mr. Parker: 'Fra-gi-le'... it must be Italian!
Mrs. Parker: I think that says 'fragile', honey.


When in Hollywood Italy, speak as the Italians do. Or, at least, in a fair approximation.

A work set in Italy, or featuring Italian characters, will often insert Italian words or phrases in the dialogue, for "flavor". Italian is also a favorite language of opera singers and classical musicians, and the official language of The Mafia. And, supposedly, everything sounds more romantic in Italian.

Culinary and musical terms are often used, because that's what many people associate Italian with. This is Truth in Television, somewhat, as many of these terms have been exported from Italian and don't have an English equivalent. "Mamma mia!" is often heard, even though it's hardly the only Italian exclamation available.

Naturally, even though the people speaking Italian are supposedly Italian themselves, they will never, never pronounce certain words correctly. For instance, the word "capisce" is always pronounced "ka-peesh" instead of "ka-peesh-eh" (the eh is pronounced as in second). Also, it's third-person singular, unlike its popular use in English. Don't expect the grammar to be correct, either. Verb-object agreement is a source of trouble, and, unlike English, Italian adjectives are gendered, which is often ignored. For example, "bravo" should be "brava" if referring to a woman. A really lazy way of doing it is having the characters simply speak English, but with a heavy accent and with unstressed "a's" tacked onto the end of random words. ("Give-a the ugly kid a plate of the red-a crap!")

Italy has many different accents, which can vary wildly between regions. The ones that are most often heard in the media are typical of Southern Italy, especially Naples or Sicily (the latter is commonly associated with the Mafia). There are also many regional dialects, which are different languages from Italian itself.

Esempi di Gratuitous italiane sono:

Creazioni Originali dei Fan

  • SOS Pretty Cure has the Cures start their attack incantations with the line "Spiriti cattivi andatevene, perche io vi schiaccerò!". Translates to "Evil spirits begone, for I will crush you!".
    • Also, the Cures' names are Italian translations of "God", "Key", "Alien", "Time", and "Psychic", and there are several Italian words and phrases scattered throughout the series in miscellany (including "Capisce?").



  • An early use of gratuitous Italian is in Emma, where the crass new wife of Mr. Elton constantly calls her husband her "cara sposo". The phrase is grammatically incorrect (it should be "caro sposo") and was in Austen's time a tired old catchphrase, but this was deliberate: Austen was sending up Mrs. Elton as a badly-educated social climber. (Strangely, some editions of Emma correct the spelling, probably because the editors are ignorant of Austen's intentions.)
  • The Discworld novel Maskerade is a parody of The Phantom of the Opera and features opera prominently, so naturally it has grammatically incorrect Gratuitous Italian. A scene in the opera has a young woman singing about how hard it is for her to leave her lover: "Questa maledetta porta si blocccccca, Si blocca comunque diavolo io faccccccio...!" Then, the aria is translated into English:

This damn door sticks
This damn door sticks
It sticks no matter what the hell I do
It's marked "Pull" and indeed I am pulling
Perhaps it should be marked "Push"?

  • Towards the end of The Count of Monte Cristo, Danglars escapes to Italy and shouts orders to the coach driver using musical terms, the only Italian words he knows. This however is a case of In-Universe Fridge Brilliance on his part, he probably knows that presto means quickly.


  • Birca in Engine Sentai Go-onger. Birca is a giant green orca/motorcycle mecha, so the Italian is minimal compared to everything else about him.
  • Sofia from The Golden Girls constantly spouted off gratuitous Italian (or Sicilian) phrases, especially when riled or passing on a proverb.
  • Mid 90s European videogames TV channel Game Network broadcast all over the continent in a number of languages from Italy. The channel's news programme at one stage would read stories alternately in English and Italian. This may/may not be Gratuitous English.
  • Sometimes invoked in Whose Line Is It Anyway?. The ep with special guest Robin Williams had one game with Robin and Ryan as pizza chefs—the first thing they did was swear at each other in vaguely Italian gibberish.
  • In Doctor Who, one of the Tenth Doctor's many catchphrases is "Molto bene!"
  • Friends has Joey Tribbiani who, as an italo-american, often utters random Italian sentences, and a lot of Italian sounding gibberish.
  • On Bitchin' Kitchen all kinds. The both cookbooks provide a glossary and the show has short spots where she defines a word for the viewer. Also, torrents of gratuitous Greek any time Panos' wife appears.

Manga e Anime

  • Professor Chronos in Yu-Gi-Oh! GX used some random Italian phrases in his speech. (The "na no ne" he ends sentences with is Japanese, though.)
  • Izumi from Digimon Frontier uses Italian exclamations from time to time. She moved to Italy at a young age, and had only recently come back to Japan. Commozione~
  • Parco Folgore in Gash Bell.
  • Chad in Bleach has a tattoo that says 'amore e morte' - Italian for 'love and death'. (He's Mexican, by the way, and in spanish it should be 'amor y muerte'.)
  • Katekyo Hitman Reborn throws in a lot of Italian, including attack names (being Shonen, after all). To be fair though, most of those characters actually are Italian, and the series centers around The Mafia. And since the author apparently consults an actual Italian, most of it seems pretty sound, but there are still things like "Elettrico Cornata".[3]
  • Gunslinger Girl also throws in a lot of Italian, which isn't surprising since the setting's in Italy.
  • The Numbers Cyborgs of Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha, whose names are the numbers one to twelve in Italian, except for Sein — the actual Italian word for six is "sei", without the n.
  • Another One Piece example: Sir Crocodile uses gratuitous Italian (as well as English, Spanish, and French) in most of his attack names. Badly, at least in the Italian publication, where it's mixed with English: "Ground Secco" ("secco" means "dry") and "Desert Spada" ("spada" means "sword") and "Desert Girasole" ("Sunflower"). In the original Japanese, Crocodile says "Deserto Spada" or "Deserto Girasole". Though this could be interpreted just as Engrish gibberish, it's also true that "deserto" is the ACTUAL Italian word for desert. It must be noted though that the real Italian expression for "Desert sword" would not be "Deserto spada"; rather, "Spada del deserto".
  • Aria takes place in a copy of Venice, so there is some Italian used in series. Curiously though, most written text in the show is actually in Esperanto.
  • Umineko no Naku Koro ni has this in spades:
    • Both the openings for the sound novels and the anime have lyrics in Italian.
    • Beatrice's name is said the Italian way. ("Bay-ah-tree-chay" as opposed to the more Americanized "Bee-uh-triss.")
    • Divine Comedy references abound.
    • And much more.
  • The Dolems in RahXephon are named after Italian-derived musical terms (Fortissimo, Arpeggio, Mezzoforte, etc.)
  • Speaking of which, Mezzo Forte is also the name of an action-packed Hentai OVA series.
  • Puella Magi Madoka Magica and its Spin Offs Puella Magi Kazumi Magica and Puella Magi Oriko Magica are this in terms of Calling Your Attacks. Mami Tomoe of the parent series is the biggest, and then in Kazumi Magica had the main magical girl Kazumi copying from her which in turn her fellow Pleiades Saints are copying from her.
  • Fairy Tail has some italian here and there, including the kingdom of Fiore (Flower) and Aria (Air), member of the Element Four. The Sky Dragon's name can also be read as Grandine, meaning "Hail"[4]



"O, fortunata! Non ancor abbandonata!"

  • In The Fantasticks, the musicians start playing the Rape Ballet when they hear its director call out, "Accelerando con molto!" This isn't very grammatical, but hey...
  • A number of Gian-Carlo Menotti's operas do this, as Menotti himself was Italian. There are numerous sections of The Saint Of Bleecker Street where the characters all speak Italian (justified in that they are all of Italian descent), the foreign woman's lines in The Consul, and a duet from Maria Golovin.


  • Morrie from Dragon Quest VIII.
  • Assassin's Creed II is full of it, being set in Italy.
    • Played for Laughs in this Penny Arcade comic. And it still manages to sound sexy and badass. Read it aloud in your best / worst Italian accent for the full effect.
    • Considering the nature of Assassin's Creed gameplay though, it's actually due to incomplete translation software, and Desmond Miles ends up thanking the resident techie for the subtitles he's seeing. By Assassin's Creed Brotherhood the software's been improved so the effect is lessened, though only for Italian -- German and French are left untranslated. (The subtitles available to the player however provide a translation.)
  • And then of course there are Super Mario and his brother Luigi. Hilariously so in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga where, when talking to non-speaking NPCs, they speak Italian-sounding gibberish.
  • All the levels in Super Mario Sunshine are in Italian. Bianco = white, Pianta = plant, and so forth. It's actually pretty correct Italian save for "Il Piantissimo". The...plant-iest? The big cry? [5]
  • In Strange Journey, the demon Horkos will tend to yell "BUONO!" no matter whether he's being hit or if he's eating.
  • Maya likes saying "Ciao!" and "Grazie!" a lot.
  • Used badly in Devil May Cry 2 with the "Arcana" MacGuffin. First, in Italian the noun precede the adjective (so it should be Spada Arcana or Medaglia Arcana). Second, Calice and Bastone are male nouns, so they should be "Arcano". Last but not least, the plural form would be "Arcani". Then again, this is Devil May Cry, so they probably didn't care too much.
  • In the first Metal Slug, there is a level set in Italy. One of the signs on the shops in the background says "Liutaio", or luthier, another says "Carne", or meat, and there is a "Posta", which is the post office. However, there is also a "Kocher", and a "Playa" which means beach in Spanish, so make what you will of that.
  • One boss in Castle Crashers is named Pipistrello, the Italian for Bat.
  • Vampire Savior introduces Jedah, the new Big Bad of the series, whose moves all have (broken) Italian names despite him not being Italian himself: Dio Sega = Saw of God (Sega di Dio is more accurate); Nero Fatica = Black Fatigue (Fatica Nera); Ira Spinta = Angry Thrust (Spinta Irata); Spregio = Defiance (this one's correct); Sangue Passare = Passage of Blood (Passaggio di Sangue); Prova di Servo = Proof of the Servant (in the context, it could be also Proof of Servitude; in this case, it could also be Prova di Schiavitù); Finale Rosso = Red Ending (this one's right too).

Creazioni Originali della Rete

  • In the late years of the Chaos Timeline, there are artificial insects (flying nanotech robots) called Zanzara. Also, the Renaissance is known under the incorrect Italian term Rinascita (Renaissance is Rinascimento in Italian) in this history, rather than the French term from our history.

Fumetto della Rete

Cartoni Animati

  • Peter Griffin parodied this once by entering an Italian deli and thinking that because of his new mustache, he could actually speak Italian. He wound up repeating random Italian-sounding gibberish, angering the man at the counter, who actually threatened to kill him with the deli goods.
  • The Simpsons has an episode set in Italy, specifically in Tuscany in the small country of "Salsiccia" (Sausage). However it was used incorrectly. Sorry, but "Plagiarismo" and "Mayore" aren't the Italian for Plagiarism and Mayor.[6] Of course, that episode is fond of errors.
    • The German version of the enraged cook's cry against Homer in Guess Who's Coming to Criticize Dinner includes Italian swearing. And not just a random swearing, but one that will get you instantly banned from any show on Italian TV, as actors and local Big Brother contestants found out at their own expenses. Despite it being one of the most common utterances in Real Life Italy.[7]
  • Guido from Cars, who is a small blue forklift that can only speak Italian.

Vita Reale

  • Classical music terminology runs on this trope as well as Gratuitous German, but specifically, Italian tends to be the universal language for sheet music markings, including the tempo (itself an Italian loan-word), dynamics, and various technique markings. Which means musicians across the world know at least a few words in Italian, like forte (loud) and presto (very fast).
  • Related to the above: Throughout the 18th century, "serious" operas by Austro-German composers were written in Italian. The German-language singspiele (like Mozart's The Magic Flute) were generally seen as lighter fare.
  • Japanese took the Italian as their idol in soccer, and is very likely to integrate Italian in their names. Just check The Other Wiki list of Japanese pro soccer teams and how many were inspired by the Italian language...
  1. By the way, the word means the same thing in both languages, and it has the same etymology: from the latin fragilis.
  2. Yeah, sometimes translation is easier than others
  3. the correct spelling is "Cornata Elettrica" and means "electric ramming/goring".
  4. as in the ice drops falling from the sky.
  5. pianta means plant, pianto means crying
  6. which are instead "Plagio" and "Sindaco".
  7. Hint:The word used was a bestemmia.