The intricacies of the Italian word “dunque”.

In the comment thread on my recent post about learning to dance through the Italian language, I was reminded by a reader of the fantastic intricacies of the Italian word “dunque“. Just as a quick little aside, I thought I would share them with you today:

I said in the comment thread:

Dunque”, as was explained to me by an Italian girlfriend, is a choice weapon to keep in your reserves… especially as a woman in Italy. When a woman enters the room and starts the sentence with “Dunque”, you might as well take cover.

It’s basically like: “Alright ya’ll, shut the Hell up and listen. This is how it’s gonna be.”

Men can use it as well. But when a chick uses it, it’s a show stopper. It’s particularly useful in all-male situations, when you need to show your palles.

Example scenario: female architect on an all-male construction site (hmmm… sounds familiar)

Instead of politely trying to convince a construction site full of male muratori that I’m on top of my sh*t, sometimes it is much more useful to lay down the law in a way that is recognizable to them. In this example, let’s say that the construction crew is in a heated debate over how to handle an unexpected leak in a cantina wall. One guy wants to throw some concrete on the hole. Another guy says that will just move the leak. And a third suggests a drainage system.

I listen for a minute, taking in all information. I consider what is the best plan of attack. Regardless of whether or not the men will reach this decision on their own, I need to pee on my territory a bit. So I interrupt with a firm voice:

Dunque. Facciamo così...” and I outline how the drainage system is going to work.

This literally translates to: “So, let’s do it like this…”

But culturally, this translates to: “Gentlemen, listen up. I’m the closest thing you’ve got to a mamma on this construction site, and my word is the law. This is how it’s gonna roll…”

click photo for credit

I call this “The Dunque Look” – click photo for Flickr credit

Now, because this is Italian and there is a prerequisite dance before actually continuing with the work (see explanation here), there will still be some time and conversation dedicated to the subject before proceeding. But I’ve done two things here.

  1. I’ve peed on my territory and asserted my authority, thereby gaining respect.
  2. I’ve comforted the men by assuming a familiar female role in order to get my point across.

As an American, my natural inclination would have been to jump into the conversation and talk it out, coming to a group decision together. This would have been detrimental to my position in the pack, though. I see that now. For many years I did not. But now.

Now I am the She-Wolf.

10 Cool Points to anyone who can cite the reference here in the comments! (Click photo for Flickr credit)

10 Cool Points to anyone who can cite the reference here in the comments! (Click photo for Flickr credit)

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14 thoughts on “The intricacies of the Italian word “dunque”.

  1. I think I spent an entire year and a half (out of my so-far nearly two years in Italy) being completely, utterly mystified by “dunque” and why it seemed to give the phrase so much emphasis. Attempts to look it up in the dictionary just mystified me farther, because nothing really explained the weight of the word. Now, of course, I’m a big fan of it. I need as many ways as possible to say “listen up – I am about to say something important”.

    • Uh oh, per favore dimmi pure! Cose sono?!
      Cazzo, ho già fatto un altra brutta figura… Ovviamente Non ho imparato niente in sei anni! 🙂

      • Se ricordo bene c’è anche una novella del Verga intitolata “la lupa”… E’ termine desueto quindi non hai fatto una figuraccia :asd:
        Con “lupa” si intende anche… “donna di facili costumi”, da cui “lupanare” (bordello, casino…già, anche casino deriva da lì); per cui quella lupa lì, che allatta Romolo e Remo, potrebbe essere stata una donzella di antica professione; per cui Roma è potuta esistere, secondo questa interpretazione, grazie alla professione più antica del mondo…

        • molto interessante, grazie!
          quindi… seconda questa interpretazione, io in effetto ho finito l’articolo per dire che io sono una putana.
          Grande. 🙂

          • Non preoccuparti; probabilmente la cosa la si è colta in tre :asd:
            Il Verga viene ricordato, con dolori variamente assortiti, e tutto sommato a ragione, per i “Malavoglia” e il verismo che, trattando delle “sfighe” della gente comune, non è particolarmente amato… e questa è l’unica connessione “moderna”, il resto è mitologia e affini e a scuola preferiscono sorvolare sulle origini dubbie della lupa di Romolo e Remo che poi ci sarebbe troppo da spiegare e la “gloria” di Roma potrebbe apparire un po’ meno gloriosa :asd:

      • “Ca##o” is a typical figure of speech from Reggio Emilia (instead “fig@” from Parma…). You are a real “reggiana” now… But not, really, a Lady…:)
        “Putt@n@” with double “tt”. 😉
        P.S.: Yes, it is true the legend of the shewolf/whore or Rome. When a boy became a “man” your mother tell you that the famous Roman shewolf was a whore…

  2. After 8 years of living in Italy I still haven’t the courage to use dunque… The closest I get is ‘alllora’. Which I now try to add to into any conversation 🙂

  3. Well, Dunque is used for summarize some previous concept usually , the trouble become when is a woman that says DUNQUE…..that means : shut up, i take the right decision and what you said is all sh*t! lol…italian style!!

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