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‘Che t’aggia dì’ Posted by on Feb 28, 2010 in Italian Language

In my imagination, all of you who read my last blog ‘Gesture of the Day’ have been spending hours in front of the mirror practicing and perfecting your moves. Now I won’t pretend that learning body language will improve your grammar, but it will perhaps help you to speak Italian in a more convincing way, that is to ‘feel’ the language rather than just recite it. This is, of course, quite advanced stuff, especially if you come from a culture that doesn’t use a great deal of expressive body language.

As I said in my previous blog, physical gestures are not easy to translate into words ….. so in order to give you a vivid depiction of the gesture ‘che cavolo dici?’ (what the ‘cabbage’ are you talking about?), or ‘cazzo vuoi’ (what the fuck do you want?) here is a link to a great video in which, if you watch carefully you will see this gesture used several times. Watch and learn from the masters!:

The video accompanies a song entitled ‘Che t’aggia dì’, a canzone Napoletana (Neapolitan song) from 1952 which was recorded again in 1998 by Adriano Celentano and Mina. Now don’t worry if you don’t understand ‘un cavolo di niente’ because although neither Adriano Celentano nor Mina are Napoletani they perform the song in dialetto Napoletano (Neapolitan dialect).

Here is an extract from the song and my translation:

‘Che t’aggia dì’

‘What do I have to say’

LUI: che t’aggia fà, che t’aggia dì, tu si bella si bella si bella, ma me deceste prima de spusarme ca tu cucinave bene e invece nu caz hai fatt quanno ce simmo spusate

Him: what do I have to do, what do I have to say, you are beautiful, are beautiful, are beautiful, but before marrying me you said that you cooked well and instead you’ve done ‘cabbage all’ since we got married

LEI: teh … mo’ quanno parli te metti pure a fischià

Her: Huh … now when you speak you even start whistling

LUI: quale fischio? chi ha fischiato?

Him: what whistle? who’s whistled?

LEI: ho sentito un fischio

Her: I heard a whistle

LUI: che t’aggia fà, che t’aggia dì, che t’aggia fà, che t’aggia dì

Him: what do I have to do, what do I have to say, what do I have to do, what do I have to say

LEI: Madonna mia, che vuoi fà…

Her: Madonna mia, what do you want to do…

LUI: tu si bella, tu si bella, ma te l’aggia fà

Him: you are beautiful, you are beautiful, but I have to do it to you

LEI: che cosa??

Her: what??

LUI: te lo devo fare

Him: I have to do it to you

LEI: che cosa??

Her: what??

LUI: ti devo fare un bel paliatone grosso, un paliatone che neanche quando te l’ha fatto tuo padre te lo puoi ricordare

Him: I have to give you a good beating, a beating worse than any that you can remember your father giving you

LEI: teh.. e a chi vuoi fa lu paliatone? Io prima de spusarme ero accussì cuntenta de spusarme cu te, che dicevo, penzavo: chissà quante bella notte d’amore che passava con lui, e invece nu caz hai fat, è inutile che fischi

Her: huh … and who do you want to give the beating to? I, before getting married, was so content to get married to you, I said to myself: who knows how many wonderful nights of love I will pass with him, and instead you haven’t done ‘cabbage’ anything, it’s no good whistling

LUI: chi ha fischiato?

Him: who’s whistled?

LEI: tu non sapive fa l’amore e io me so scucciata
che t’aggia dì, che t’aggia fà, che t’aggia dì, che t’aggia f�
tu nun zai fà l’amore e io nun saccio cucenà

Her: you don’t know how to make love and I am fed up, what do I have to do, what do I have to say, what do I have to do, what do I have to say, you don’t know how to make love and I don’t know how to cook ……  ecc.

N.B. For an explanation of the euphemism ‘cavolo’ (cabbage) see my previous blog: ‘Gesture of the Day’.

Grazie a Vince per avermi accennato del video.

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  1. Vince Mooney:

    Salve Serena:

    Penso ti amo. : )

    I have been trying to translate ‘Che t’aggia dì’ for the longest time.

    Desideri di Adriana era Marcello Mastroianni?.

    This video is so creative and so Italian!

    Here is a link to see the bedroom scene taken from “Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow”.

    And if you want to see something highly emotional, look at this link where Adriano receives his football jersey (that the duck wears in the ‘Che t’aggia dì’ video).

    This video makes me want to live in Italy with people like those in the stadium.


    P.S. Did you notice in the ‘Che t’aggia dì’ video that the gesture for ‘someone is crazy’ is the same as it is in English? (Circling one finger pointed to one’s ear).

    • serena:

      @Vince Mooney Ciao Vince, glad you enjoyed the translation. I didn’t translate the whole song, so if you’re desperate to know all of the words let me know. We don’t use youtube very much because of our slow (analogica – dial-up) connection, però, ogni tanto ne vale la pena.


  2. Nathan:

    Ciao Serena,

    Have you been following the Winter Olympics? Any idea how Italia made out? You can’t find good coverage here in the States.

    The video was great!

    Ciao, ciao.

    • serena:

      @Nathan Ciao Nathan, I’m afraid that I haven’t followed the Winter Olympics, a. because we don’t have a television, and b. because I’m so fed up with the winter that the thought of looking at snowy images is just too depressing. Sono disperata per un po di sole!

      a presto, Serena

  3. Jeannet:

    Salve Serena,
    Thank you Vince and Serena giving in this blog
    the cute performance of Adriano Celentano and
    Mina in front of us, in gestures, significations of the
    words Napolitano. Although not knowing anything
    about, even then one is thrilled by melody and
    mime. Lovely conversation.

  4. Pam:

    Oohh. That is a wonderful video…there is also something about the beat that helps the ‘understanding’. Ah Napoli.

  5. Italie2go:

    Hmmmm, i think this duck looks like the Italian singer Celentano. I guess it’s his song, then?

  6. Jeannet:

    Ciao Serena,

    Thank you for the humoures contents in the
    blog and may be at the same time an preventing warning for tourists not to stumbel ordering a mail or so for the time being in Italy
    towards ‘waiters’ as we need to learn
    ‘parlare-parlare-parlare’ properly in italian language; because on the point failing italian people ought to know so many gestures!
    I appreciate highly a sense of humour, but I am not a twitter and have no I-phone.
    ‘Pasqua’ va venire ed la Prima Vera a presto.

  7. Tom:

    I love the video and the song. (I am a great fan of Mina, now i will have to learn about Celentano)

    YouTube has several other “treatments” of the song. In this one, two young men are playing the parts. Not quite as good as the animation, but they do interpret with gestures:

  8. fil:

    excellent video, I really liked!

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