From Brats to Pimples and Peas, Italian Language for Moms

Portone at Piazza Collegio Romano. Photo by Trisha Thomas.

One of my favorite aspects of the Italian language are the endings ‘ino’, ‘one’, and ‘accio’. You can change the nature of a word just by adding one of those three endings. ‘Ino’ (pronounced eee-no) makes the subject small, ’one’ (pronounced oh-nay) makes it big, and ‘accio’ (pronounced ah-choh) makes it bad.  So a door, ‘una porta’, can be small or big (porticina, portone).  A ‘parola’ (word) can become a swear word or a rude word by adding ‘accia’. ‘Parolaccia’. And a pimple can be a ‘brufolo’, a ‘brufolino’, a ‘brufolaccio’ or a ‘brufolone’. I find the ‘accio’ particularly useful.  If you want to tell someone you’ve had a bad day, you just add ‘accio’ to the Italian word for day. So ‘giornata’ becomes a ‘giornataccia’.

My friend Jessica once had a minor confrontation with her mother-in-law over her son’s use of the endings to suit his purposes.  The word for peas in Italian (piselli) is very similar to the word for penis (pisello).  One day, when her son was four, her family was having lunch at her in-laws’, where they were served piselli (peas). To Jessica’s mother-in-law’s great dismay, her grandson Pietro began chanting, “Piselli, piselli, piselli.  I have a pisellino, but my daddy has a pisellone.” (translated “Penises, penises, penises.  I have a little one, but my Daddy has a big one.”)

Jessica’s mother-in-law marched into the bedroom where Jessica was changing her daughter’s diaper and repeated the phrase. “Where has he learned these words?  Did you teach him these?” she asked. “No,” Jessica answered, trying hard to keep a straight face. “Did he learn them at school? Did other children teach him to speak like that?” she continued.

“No, I think his father must have taught him that one,” she answered, smirking.  The offended mother-in-law marched off to the living room to find Jessica’s husband.  A few minutes later Jessica could hear her husband’s raised voice down the hall. “MAMMA, PER FAVORE, LASCIAMI IN PACE! (Mamma, please, leave me in peace!)

A little aside here, I just went to my local fruit and vegetable stand to take a picture of some peas to illustrate this blog post.  The husband-wife team running the stand was very amused that the ‘Americana’ didn’t know that pea season begins in March and is well over by October.  I had to reveal to them that this ‘Americana’ was raised on frozen peas.  Oh, horrors.  To make me feel better after surviving this childhood trauma, they sold me some delicious, fresh white peaches that are still in season in southern Italy in October.

I like to use the endings when dealing with my children.  Sometimes one can be ‘monello’ (brat), sometimes one is just ‘monellino’ (little brat) and, when it gets bad, one is a ‘monellone’ (big brat), and even worse ‘monellaccio’ (horrible brat).

My Italian television colleagues have even adapted the endings for TV use.  When we need a little soundbite for a news story, we say a ‘soundbitino’. When we have had problems with a satellite feed, we call it a ‘feedaccio’. If we have to do a little news story on something, it becomes a ‘storyellina’.  If a news story gets a lot of attention and our effort is considered good it becomes, as my boss said about our Knox verdict coverage, a ‘successone’.


Post in: Italiano


  1. Avatar

    fun story, Trisha! and me being me, I can’t help taking the chance to celebrate the heroic deeds of my beloved “pupone:” Francesco Totti, the 8th king of Rome :-)

    • Trisha Thomas
      Trisha Thomas

      Laura — you must help me by explaining to the American readers who is Totti and what exactly the name Pupone means. I have no idea why he is called that.

      • Avatar

        oh dear! Francesco Totti is a soccer player, former center-forward of the national team. He’s been the captain of soccer team AS Roma, to which he’s been loyal all his career, for the past 13 years. For us AS Roma supporters he’s some kind of a mythological hero! he’s the symbol of talent, strength, perseverance, dedication, and love for Rome, his hometown.
        I think the nickname “Pupone” (big baby) dates back to the days when he was still playing in the juvenile team. People noticed the champion’s talent in him, so the company started to pamper their child in order to convince him to stay.
        He just turned 35 and he still is “IL CAPITANO!”

  2. Avatar
    Liz Cameron

    Feedaccio has me LOL. I think the Turkish equivalent is in the form of vocal decibels and arms akimbo above the head! :) Loving it all, Trisha, keep up the amazing work!

  3. Avatar
    Lega Medcalf

    Speaking of small, my dad, Marcelino as was his mother’s pet name for him, was a small Italian/Maltese man. He was always very offended to see *”small Italians” listed as specials on deli board menus in the State of Maine.

    *(ham and cheese sandwiches with olive oil and veggies)

  4. Avatar
    Lisa at Wanderlust Women

    ROFL – especially love the newsroom humor. Nothing like it anywhere!


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