SHARE
COPY LINK
For members

ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Andare a manetta’

Today's phrase has us firing on all cylinders.

Italian expression of the day andare a manetta
Photo: Annie Spratt/Unsplash/Nicolas Raymond

Are you ready to put pedal to the metal and go full bore when it comes to learning this expression?

Andare a manetta (and-AH-rreh a mann-ETT-ta) in fact means just that: to go at top speed, flat out, at full pelt. 

Conveniently for English speakers, it translates pretty directly from the phrase ‘to go full throttle’. Andare is of course the verb ‘to go’ and manetta is the Italian word for a throttle, an old-fashioned sort of lever used in vehicles to regulate the amount of fuel being fed into the engine. 

To go full throttle was to channel the maximum amount of petrol possible into the motor so that the car could reach top speed, which is where both phrases come from.

Running Late On My Way GIF by Minions

Like in English, it can be used refer literally to, e.g., F1 drivers, but is often used in a metaphorical sense. It’s the kind of colloquial phrase that you’re more likely to hear in spoken conversation than see written down in a book, and is most widely used among young Italians.

Se vuoi arrivare entro un’ora dovrai andare a manetta.
If you want to get there in an hour you’ll have to go full tilt.

Stiamo andando avanti a manetta con questo progetto, non mi importa quello che dice Stefania.
We’re going full steam ahead with this project, I don’t care what Stefania says.

You don’t need to restrict yourself to the verb andare: there are various actions that could be done a manetta, such as parlare a manetta (talk at top speed), alzare il volume a manetta (turn the sound up to top volume – e.g. on the TV or radio), or piovere a manetta (tip it down with rain).

Parla sempre a manetta, è estenuante.
She always talks at full throttle, it’s exhausting.

È la mia canzone preferita, alza la radio a manetta!
This is my favourite song, turn the radio up as loud as it’ll go!

Relaxing Season 3 GIF by The Simpsons

You might wonder if there’s a connection to manette (handcuffs) but the two aren’t to be confused: the etymological link comes simply from the word hand (mano), a manetta being a hand-controlled thrust lever and manette being, well, handcuffs.

To help you differentiate, aside from context, you’ll almost always only see manette in the plural form, whereas a manetta is only used in the singular form.

Toglietemi immediatamente queste manette!
Take these handcuffs off me at once!

Parlavi a manetta ieri sera.
You were talking at a 100 miles an hour yesterday evening.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

Member comments

Log in here to leave a comment.
Become a Member to leave a comment.
For members

ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Avere un diavolo per capello’

No need to blow your top about this Italian phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Avere un diavolo per capello'

At one point or another, we’ve all had un diavolo per capello – ‘a devil by the hair’.

This isn’t a devil on your shoulder – the little voice encouraging you do so something bad or mischievous.

The demon is this phrase isn’t devious but seething, making the person whose locks it is clutching furious, enraged, or extremely irritable.

State attenti alla signora Russo, ha un diavolo per capello stamattina. 
Watch out for Mrs. Russo, she’s in a foul mood this morning.

Ha abbandonato la riunione con un diavolo per capello.
He walked out of the meeting in a fury.

You might picture someone tearing their hair out in rage, or a furious djinn perched on someone’s head directing their movements.

Angry Inside Out GIF by Disney Pixar

Another common Italian expression involving the devil is fare il diavolo a quattro.

This phrase can mean any of raising hell – either by causing a ruckus or kicking up a fuss – or going to great lengths to get something.

Ha fatto il diavolo a quattro quando le hanno detto che l’orario di visita era finito e non l’hanno fatta entrare.
She screamed blue murder when they told her visiting hours were over and wouldn’t let her in.

Ho fatto il diavolo a quattro per ottenere quel permesso.
I fought like hell to get that permit.

It’s unclear quite how a phrase which literally translates as something along the lines of ‘doing the devil by four’ came to have its current meaning – according to the Treccani dictionary, there are a couple of explanations.

One is that in some profane medieval art that involved religious imagery, the devil was often depicted along with the number four.

Another is that when the devil was represented on stage, he had so many different guises that four actors were required to play him in order to avoid having too long a time between costume changes.

Do you have an Italian word you’d like us to feature? If so, please email us with your suggestion.

SHOW COMMENTS