From ‘cool’ to ‘c***’ : 50 shades of genitaliano slang.


Figs (Photo credit: Mundoo)

What Valentine’s Day is complete without an extensive discussion of Italian slang derived from female private parts?

Somehow, between the chocolate covered strawberries and the bottle of passito wine, my husband and I ventured into this graphic subject late last night. It was actually kind of fascinating.

You know how they say that you can begin to understand the priorities of a culture by examining it’s language? Then they always cite the example of Eskimos, and how they have 100 words for snow. Whether or not that claim is a hoax, it is interesting to note how many forms of the word for female genitalia have made it into everyday use in Italian. Shall we?

Let’s start with the basics:

1. ‘Figa’ or ‘fica’ is a somewhat crude word, akin to ‘p*ssy’ in English. We believe it comes from the word for fig, ‘fico‘, as in the somewhat sensual fruit found all over Italy. The ‘g’ is substituted for the ‘c’ here in Emilia because the farmer folk are a bit rough with their language. This word is a pretty standard part of the young person’s slang dictionary. In Parma, in fact, they insert the word ‘figa’ into normal conversation on a shockingly frequent basis. Example:

“Eh, figa, ieri siamo andati in centro e c’erano queste scarpe nuove che erano una figata pazzesca”.

Translation: “Eh, p*ssy, yesterday we went to the town center and there were these new shoes that were like a crazy-cool p*ssy.”

No joke. This is a totally acceptable way to talk. I mean, you wouldn’t use this vocabulary at work or with your grandparents, but amongst friends and other people your age – totally acceptable.

2. Next, we have the more widely accepted figo. This is a basic slang word for ‘cool’. It’s not at all offensive, and is used all over Italy (not just in Parma).

3. Third is a word that I have already mentioned in a previous post – one that I have taken a liking to and absorbed into my Itanglish vocabulary – ‘fighetto’. The best definition I can come up with is ‘chic’… but sometimes in a somewhat pretentious way. It kind of depends on who is using the word. It can also be used by someone fighetto much in the same way as ‘figo’ is used by us normal folk.

4. This one is how our entire conversation got started… Up until now derivations of this word for female parts have taken a fairly positive connotation, making things ‘cool’ or ‘chic’. As you may know, many words in Italian can be turned up on their heads by introducing a little ‘s’ at the beginning. It’s like sticking an ‘un’ or an ‘anti’ on an English word. Such is the case with ‘sfigato‘. A man who is ‘sfigato’ is completely undesirable to woman… Furthermore, it’s as if his inabilities with woman were predestined by the laws of nature. My husband, with his somewhat inventive English, described it as “unlayable by nature”. It’s not really a curse word, but it does require a certain familiarity of company.

5. Now that we’ve introduced the ways that female genitalia can describe men specifically, there is one that must be mentioned: ‘becchafiga‘. This is basically a ‘player’… literally a p*ssy-pecker (‘becchare’ is to peck, like a bird). A ‘becchafiga’ is a man who succeeds at his ventures as well. It’s term of respect between sly men.

6. Ok, this last one requires a little disclaimer…

***NOTE: the following description may not be suitable for all audiences and may cause women to cross their legs and cringe.

It’s even difficult to write, because it’s technically dialect, not Italian… so the usual pronunciation of a ‘sc’ sound needs to be replaced with a harder ‘sch’ sound. Ready?

Figa scianca

I’ve lost all my Italian readers now.

For those of you who are unaware of this hideous word, let me explain. This is the graphic part… ‘Sciancher’ in dialect means to rip (‘strappare’ in Italian). Are you with me? So the word above (I can’t bear to repeat it) comes from an even more horrible phrase: “Una se la tira finche se la strappa” (translated: ‘she pulls away until it rips’; she plays hard to get). This word is the closest equivalent to the dreaded C-word in English. IT IS NOT TO BE USED LIGHTLY!!!

And there you have it… from ‘cool’ to ‘c***’. Genitaliano slang. (See what I did there?)

26 thoughts on “From ‘cool’ to ‘c***’ : 50 shades of genitaliano slang.

    • Thank you, Debra – by the way – I saw your photos of the snow in Bagni di Lucca. Gorgeous! I think we’re going to make it a weekend trip destination soon. Maybe after the snow melts a bit, though! Wouldn’t want to get stuck on the roads in our Fiat Grande Punto di m*?%*. 🙂

  1. Very interesting! I have remarked in the past on this delightful reversal of gendered English slang, ie where the negative and positive connotations of pussy and balls, respectively, in English are the opposite in Italian. I think figa and its variations are in fact more popular in the north, I remember years ago noticing its incredibly popular use when I was hanging out with young people in the Veneto. I have never heard the unmentionable word you conclude with though. What dialect is it used in? And I’m still confused about what it means and how it’s used, if you can bring yourself to write a few more words about it!

  2. La tua lezione sull’uso di “figa” come intercalare nelle parlate parmensi è impagabile. Così come la parte dedicata all’espressione “figa s’cianca”. Mai in vita mia avrei creduto di poter trovare un’americana così esperta del nostro “micro-gergo” provinciale.
    Figa, veramente incredibile!
    Saluti da Fidenza!

    • Grazie mille, Diego. Ci sono nuove parole di “slang” che imparo ogni giorno: molte di queste sarebbero degne di un articolo dedicato – è troppo da scrivere tutto! – M

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  4. you helped me learn a new word…figo. the others i unfortunately knew… lol. why is ot when learning a new language, the curse words are always remembered? who needs verbs and nouns or sentence structure… lol

    ps- genitaliano made me laugh out loud!!

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  7. OMG!! Now I understand why my friend from Trieste gave me the stinky eye when I told someone he looked ‘figa’ in his new jacket. Ignorance is truly bliss!

  8. OMG! I’m blushing, but it’s important to know these subtle aspects of common slang, that final word is new to me too, it almost sounds Sicilian actually!

    • it does kinda! I’ve noticed that a lot of dialect words and slang around here sound like they’ve had foreign influence… Sicily of course being “foreign”. 🙂

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