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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.

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For members

ITALIAN WORD OF THE DAY

Italian expression of the day: ‘Meno male’

Thank goodness for this phrase.

Italian expression of the day: 'Meno male'
Photo: DepositPhotos

Feel like the studying’s paid off and you’re finally getting all this Italian vocab to stick? 

Meno male, we might tell you: ‘just as well’. Click here to hear it pronounced.

This common expression (literally: ‘less bad’) is a way to welcome a piece of information, while implying that the alternative would be a whole lot worse.

You can translate it as anything from ‘just as well’ to ‘fortunately’ to ‘thank goodness’.

Sei tornato! Meno male!
You’re back! Thank goodness!

You can say it on its own, like in the example above, or specify what you’re thankful for by adding che.

Meno male che stai bene.
It’s a good job you’re ok.

It expresses gladness, gratitude, but most of all, relief. That’s why you might hear people use with a big sigh and a wipe of the forehead, like we would say: ‘phew!’

The prize for the most notorious (and cringeworthy) usage of this phrase in Italy goes to the song Meno male che Silvio c’e (‘Thank goodness for Silvio’) by Andrea Vantini, used in late politician Silvio Berlusconi’s campaigning with his former party Popolo della Libertà.

Finally, note the spelling: while you might see it written as one word by some, in fact it’s most definitely two.

Meno male we checked the dictionary, eh?

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

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