A pagare e morire c’è sempre tempo
Literally: For paying and dying, there is always time
This is the Italian version of Benjamin Franklin’s old maxim about the only guarantees in life being death and taxes. Instead of taxes, however, this proverb talks about ‘payments’ more generally. I also wonder if this can be (mis)interpreted to mean that you shouldn’t be in a rush to make the payments you owe (or to die, for that matter). I wonder what the Italian taxman might make of this…hmm…
Bacco, tabacco, e Venere, portan l’uomo al cenere.
Literally: Baccus, tobacco, and Venus lead man to ash.
Baccus (or Dionysus in Greek) is the Greek god of wine, merrymaking and intoxication, or basically of having a good time. Venus (Aphrodite in Greek) is of course the goddess of love and beauty. Tobacco needs no translation. 🙂 So this proverb is saying that too much wine, tobacco, and women will lead a man to ruin.
I really should find less sexist proverbs. 🙂
Nel bene o nel male purché se ne parli
Literally: In good or bad as long as it’s talked about
This is pretty much the Italian equivalent of the English “any publicity is good publicity.” As long as something is spoken about, it is presumed that it does the subject some kind of indirect good, even if it is being spoken of badly. This is also a good example of the use of the rarely spoken word ‘purché’ (as long as).
Chi va piano va sano e va lontano. Chi va forte va alla morte.
Literally: He/she who goes slow, stays healthy and goes far. He/she who goes fast, goes towards death.
A proverb giving us a healthy word of warning that fast living or hasty action often leads to a fast death or failure! 😮 Going steadily towards a goal or destination is often better than rushing and not arriving at all…
Donna e fuoco, toccali poco.
Literally: Women and fire, touch them rarely/never
I think this proverb is hilarious–it roughly translates as “stay away from women and fire”, as presumably you are apt to get burnt by both. 😉 It’s funny just how many more Italian proverbs follow this “Donna…” construction!
Uomo avvisato, mezzo salvato.
Literally: Man warned, half saved
The English version is “Forewarned is forearmed”. In other words, having advance knowledge of something gives you an advantage. The Italian version refers to being “half saved”, in that the warning goes some way to helping you out of a potential difficulty. This reminds me of the English saying “Knowing/understanding the problem is half the solution,” which has a similar meaning.
Non fare di una mosca un elefante.
Literally: Don’t make a mosquito into an elephant
As you might guess, this is the colourful Italian version of “Don’t make a mountain out of a molehill”. I wonder how the saying arose, since there aren’t any wild elephants in Italy (though there are of course plenty of mosquitoes!). Then again, the saying may have its roots in ancient times–the Romans often made use of African elephants in battle.