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Che Palle! Posted by on Nov 2, 2017 in Italian Language

Well, we’ve discussed bottoms, now I think it’s time to move onto another anatomical region that gives rise to a plethora of colloquial Italian expressions … balls!

My recent inclusion of the expression ‘che palle’ in our blog Una Gita A Parma, and more expressly my English translation ‘what a bore’, seems to have caused a bit of consternation amongst ‘literal translators’. “But surely ‘che palle’ means ‘what balls!’ i.e. ‘what a load of rubbish’?”.
I’m afraid not!

Let’s begin with the official explanation of the expression ‘che palle’ from the ‘Bible’ of the Italian language il Vocabolario Treccani:

… farsi due p. (così) = annoiarsi terribilmente o fare molta fatica, e come esclam.: che palle! (anche, due palle!), per indicare noia, fastidio, insofferenza.

Those three final words sum up nicely what one feels when one uses the expression ‘che palle’:

noia = boredom
fastidio = annoyance
insofferenza = intolerance

Notice that at the beginning of the Treccani explanation we find farsi due p. (così) which, literally translated, means something like ‘make oneself two balls’ (like this). Obviously, the literal translation is nonsensical. So let me give you a practical examples of its usage:

Giorgio si lamenta sempre per i problemi con sua moglie … dopo un po’ mi fa venire due palle così!
Giorgio always moans about the problems he has with his wife … after a while it gets really boring/annoying/intolerable.

Why, you may ask, does the expression finish with the word ‘così’ (like this)? Well, that’s because ‘che palle’, ‘farsi due palle così’, ‘che rottura di coglioni’ (a variation on palle) and so on have their own particular gesture.

Now, as you all know, Italian gestures are a vast subject in their own right, but I’ve managed to find a great video that perfectly illustrates the ‘che palle’gesture. Pay attention at 3:05.

There, did you catch it? That gesture is a visual demonstration of the noia, fastidio and insofferenza that we are feeling when we say ‘che palle!’, or ‘mi ha fatto due palle così!’.

For another clear expression of ‘che palle’ you can also watch this video by Fiorella Atzori. I recommend subscribing to her great youtube channel.

And as a bonus for anyone who still needs further explanation of the expression which we explored in my previous blog ‘Che Culo’, Fiorella is here to help us out once again … ma che culo!

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  1. Steve:

    Why is it so hard for people to believe a word could have more than one meaning in Italian? In (american) English the word “nuts” can have different meanings and interpretations.
    “I decided to add nuts to the salad for some texture.” – quite polite
    “Aw, nuts. I missed the train” – a polite way to avoid swearing
    “Man, you drive like you’re nuts” – acceptable between friends, rude between strangers
    “It hurt when the kid hit me in my…”
    …you get the idea.

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