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We receive and gladly publish… September 23, 2007

Posted by dorigo in humor, italian blogs, language, personal, politics.

My recent account of Beppe Grillo’s “V-day” spurred an inspired reader and a friend – Jeff – to leave a comment that is too good to be left in the comments section there. So I gladly elect it to a post. The fact that Jeff and I have different political views, and that nonetheless I agree almost totally with what he writes below, speaks volumes on how italian society can’t be changed by just changing our government…

Dear Massimiliano! [Jeff is answering another comment – TD]

When I say “target” the italian I fear you do not know what I mean. I think Grillo should say “va fan culo” to italians:
– to italians that keep their own homes clean but throw trash everywhere else, VA FAN CULO;
– for italians that abuse their god damn cell phones, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that drive and speak on their god damn call phones, VA FAN CULO;
– to italian parents that buy god damn cell phone to their small children, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that go dancing only way after midnight and stay up for many hours wasting health, money and frequently their lives and the lives of others, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that make needless noise and confusion, that speak too loud at bars and restaurants, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that drive needlessly fast, pass you on tight streets only to be found a couple hundred meters stopped ahead at a red street light, VA FAN CULO;
– to italian motorcyclists that think they are entitled to break all driving laws and actually feel they are good drivers and are unjustly misunderstood, VA FAN CULO;
– to italian mothers that dress their small daughters like hookers, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that never sit in their assigned places on Eurostar trains, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that speak just to show off their rheotoric but really don’t have anything to say, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that speak, read, think too much about soccer, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that pretend to be more that what they are, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that know how to say many smart quotes in latin or greek, but don’t know how to say anything original, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that suck up to the powerful and stab in the back everyone else, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that spend enormous amounts of money for their looks, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that think they are “hot”, VA FAN CULO;
– to young and not so young italian women that have tatoos on their lower backs, VA FAN CULO;
– to italian women that only wear very low waist pants, VA FAN CULO;
– to young and not so young italian narcisistic men that are worse than than their female counter parts, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that still don’t know a second language, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that read stupid magazines but have never read a novel, VA FAN CULO;
– to italians that think they are special because they come from a country that contributed many times to world heritage but in fact the only thing that is special about them is that they shame Italy, VA FAN CULO!



1. Amara - September 23, 2007


2. jeff - September 24, 2007

the top of an iceberg.

3. Amara - September 24, 2007

Then I’m frozen (drowning, you see) in that iceberg. I pay proportionally more to this government in taxes than everyone around me, and I’m not even a citizen (in my extra jobs, water, garbage, rai, …).. Here is another example: My rent, which is 2/3 of my salary, goes to an person whose contract with me says I’m living in the flat for free (guess why), with my colleagues supporting the concept, saying that everyone does it, and I will not be able to find a flat with a normal contract. (that was 4.5 years and 40,000 euros ago).

In general if I were to make a rant list (I know you needed to let off steam), the focus would be more on the things where I lose my life in queues, or fixing mistakes or mitigating thefts: all of the nonfunctioning businesses, utility companies, public services (Questura, Telecom Italia, Italgas, Poste Italiane, Trenitalia..). Larger things I find difficult in the country that have to do with the lack of investment and attention (and abysmal work conditions) in science and technology, I gave up, mostly because I’m in the same situation (for 2 months more) as thousands of my colleagues around me, so it is not worth a rant.

4. dorigo - September 24, 2007

Hi Amara,

while I mostly concur with your rant list, to which I would have my share of additions, I think we are losing focus from the original target, which is “italianism”, to use improperly a word. Actually, there is no substitute in English to a word my father used, “italioti”, to label those italians behaving with no respect to themselves, to others, to laws, to the environment, those living in chaos and happily so.

We must, I think, distinguish what is the trouble with the system – to which your criticism above mostly is addressed – with what is the trouble with those who experience it – among them, the “italiots”. Maybe there is a strong coupling there somewhere, but nonetheless we cannot act as if the latter is an effect of the former. Maybe the opposite is a truer representation of the actual cause-effect link. Because of this, I think I stand with Jeff when he says Grillo should not stop at institutions when he criticizes and vaffanculeggia.


5. jeff - September 24, 2007

Tommaso: I propose to update your father’s word from italioti to italidioti.
Amara: don’t target only institutions, parties or the government. Thats too easy.

By the way: is the reason your salary sucks and thesystem (institutions) don’t give a modern and efficient services to italians citizens also due to american culture, TV and Berlusconi? Wait wait, I bet I know the answer

6. dorigo - September 24, 2007

But Jeff: that is precisely the reason for coining the word. Italiota is the merging of italian and idiota. You need to make things clear, but not clearer. I prefer italiota.


7. jeff - September 24, 2007

Ah, I always thought is was too soft a word to mean “idiot”. Why say but then not to say? It only has the inevitable consequence that what ever you wanted to say wears down to being ineffective. When dealing with idiots you must make all out effort to be clear, else the most of them end up thinking it doesn’t concern them. Why the delicacy?

8. dorigo - September 24, 2007

I think italians confronted with the word “italiota” understand what its meaning is. It is just a tribute to our language, rather than a delicacy. Also, note that italiota also allows to be interpreted as “italiano + beota” which is actually what my father implied in his neologism.
A “beota” is even worse than an “idiota” IMO. Here’s what an internet search gives as synonims:

pollo (chicken), bestia (beast), coglione (moron – but see another post for this one), cretino (cretin).


9. Amara - September 24, 2007

By the way: is the reason your salary sucks and the system (institutions) don’t give modern and efficient services to Italians citizens also due to american culture, TV and Berlusconi?

No way. There is something very deep at the root of this, but I wish I could put my finger on what happened. Or maybe that potato root was always there. One of my colleagues pointed to the fact that just after WWII there was a focus in the Italian educational system on the classics, instead of science and technology, which I think must be only part of the story. “Media” is the most popular degree coming out of the La Sapienza University in Rome, now, you know. Tens of thousands of media degrees versus about 100 in all of the sciences. This is the result of that old potato root.

10. tulpoeid - September 24, 2007

Jeff, imho your list is quite witty (although it frames a portion of the population found in a lesser or bigger extent in every nation, so I tend to think it rather describes a very specific kind of lack of education instead of a specific race’s lifestyle). On the other hand I was shocked by your non-charming, too arrogant and way too impolite answer to Amara and Massimiliano. Could it be that you are getting italianized?

11. dorigo - September 25, 2007

Hi Tulpoeid,

oh, Jeff is very italian 😉 , although he recognizes italian behavior better than we do. When one lives one’s life exposed to two different cultures, one learns to stigmatize the idiosyncrasies of both, but one is also more likely to absorb the vices of each than their respective virtues! Jeff, what do you think about that ?


12. dorigo - September 25, 2007

Hi Amara,

I think the roots of the rotten status of scientific research in Italy (not that we do badly, but if you judge by the weight of our paycheck we do miserably!) extend back much further than WWII, although I am unable to focus on the real source. A strong tradition in human sciences -which dates back way earlier- certainly had its weight; but maybe there are other explanations.

13. jeff - September 25, 2007


Is that elegant enough?


14. Amara - September 25, 2007

Tommaso- then an abyss emerged between time of Galileo, da Vinci and WWI, WWII. Many physicists I know revere the work from these two men and it is difficult for them to believe that the scientific curiosity that supported their (and other Italian scientists, including the Jesuits) clever and bold discoveries those centuries ago would simply disappear. The filter in place today for Italian science to progress (the Italian families to give substantial financial support to the Italian scientists so that they can live on those paychecks), is a 20th century phenomena, do you think, or not?

And I had the impression that INFN and INGV were the best-funded scientists in Italy. Your message indicates that I was wrong.

For scientific output: I find the comparisonbetween Italy and France interesting.

Some trivial successes today- I learned a trick to send my mail out of my Rome area in a reasonable time with no risk of the mail going missing (circumventing Poste Italiane): use the post office at the Vaticano. Brilliant idea by my visiting colleague.

15. Andrea Giammanco - September 25, 2007

> – to young and not so young italian women that have tatoos on their lower backs, VA FAN CULO;

Ehy, why? I like it.
(Anyway, it’s not an “italianism”.)

16. changcho - September 25, 2007

“- to italians that go dancing only way after midnight and stay up for many hours wasting health, money and frequently their lives and the lives of others, VA FAN CULO;”

Jeff, get a life!!!

“- to italians that make needless noise and confusion, that speak too loud at bars and restaurants, VA FAN CULO;”

Obviously Jeff doesn’t like italians…

“- to italians that speak, read, think too much about soccer, VA FAN CULO;

What’s the matter with you? It is called CALCIO! That is the last straw and VA FAN CULO to you! Forza Inter!!



PS: For the purpose of full disclosure, I am partly italian through my beautiful grandma.

17. jeff - September 26, 2007

To your “Jeff, get a life!!!” what can I say? How about “What an infantile thing to say!” As it seems you justly and mustly go out so late to dance and stay up almost all night long, at least don’t drink or take pills of any sort and do not only drive according to the law, but drive defensively as there are many god damn idiots out of control out there. To this recomendation are you going to again say the infantile thing “Jeff, get a life!!!”?

Regards soccer (calcio) I do like it, but do not like soccer fans, so I guess that includes you (sigh). I never resonate with sheep herd behaviour; I just don’t feel at ease or right at the thought of joining any club or association that would even consider taking me as a member (Marx).

18. dorigo - September 26, 2007

Hi guys,

I must say I myself have nothing in contrary with tattoos on the lower back, with dancing, with loving soccer. However, what I believe Jeff addresses is bringing these things to extremes. In general, I liked his list of “vaffanculo” not so much for the single elements it contained (some of which are indeed quite debatable), but for the idea that Grillo should target not just politicians (and reporters, as he said he will do next), but some deviated behavior in our citizens. For that reason I subscribed to it.

Changcho, thanks for letting us know your descent… that explains your defense of italians 🙂


19. Andrea Giammanco - September 26, 2007

This makes me remind that I had promised to myself to buy “The xenophobe’s guide to italians” 🙂
(It is a series, and of course it comprises a xenophobe’s guide to americans.)

20. jeff - September 26, 2007

Hey guys (not Tommaso in this case)
If you get offended or want to make distinguos and open side discussions, aren’t you forgetting what satire is about? I have chosen to pretend to be extreme and have the right to do it just as Grillo has or anyone else. What I really think is known only by God. As for what I know of my own real thoughts, there are many uncertainties, and many ambiguities. Lets say that I think I think …. but I wouldn’t publish (go public).

21. Massimiliano - September 26, 2007

Ok satire… it’s always a problem when humor is taken seriously… and internet plus not knowing the personality of who’s talking (and we all know Grillo is a comedian) can drive badly the interpretation of sentences… that’s (internet) life, I fear… and that’s why we desperately use… emoticons… 🙂

22. jeff - September 26, 2007

Massimiliano massimiliano.
E’ la vita! It is life. Some ask themselves: “Oh deary me! Is the other person playing with me or is he serious?” My suggestion is not to be cerebral about it, but follow you gut feelings. If you feel like laughing then it is a joke or at least not menacing, while if you feel the other person is rubbing you the wrong way, then re-act either either by avoiding or countering. If I or anyone else rubbed you the wrong way then maybe, just maye, I or that someone else knew very well that I/they were trying to rub you the wrong way.

Am I rubbing you the wrong way or just kidding?

23. changcho - September 26, 2007

jeff, all the stuff I said was tongue-in-cheek, but do get a life (again, tongue-in-cheek!)


24. Randall - September 29, 2007

I agree with the concept expressed by jeff in his, how can I call it, V-list.

And this is precisely the problem I had with Grillo’s V-day.

I am afraid that Grillo missed the real problem of Italy, which is , in my opinion, in a certain attitude of the average italian (well summarized by the word “italioti”) to behave as he is the centre of the world and rules don’t exist.

Most of the angry mob which argues against the corruption of the politicians is the same that evades taxes and begs for favours to influent people!

And this is a serious problem that hardly will be solved just filling some squares.


P.S. by the way, compliments for the blog Tommaso 🙂

25. Vera - October 5, 2007

Dear bloggers, my name is Vera, I’m Italian and I live near Venice.
Randall, I’m afraid you are only partly correct. Yes, I agree that many Itanlians tend to consider themselves the centre of the world, but I fear that comparing people who argues against the politicians’ corruption and people who evade taxes and don’t pay attention to the rules is not correct, and I say this since I was there, at Grillo’s V-day. A lot of people like me is only sick and tired with our politicians, we are not criminals! 25 members of our parliament have been condemned by a tribunal for Mafia or corruption or because they evaded taxes and they came in the parliament only to protect themselves from the punishment: I believe we have our own right to want some honest politician, and also someone who understands what the needs of people are: it seems to me we are not asking that much! I would like to know how much you understand Italian day-to-day life and politics to express such an opinion. The behaviour Jeff condems in us are certainly present in some Italians, but the “average italian” as you call it, is not such an idiot!
I fear you don’t even understand the damages our political class has inflicted upon our country.
Excuse me for the length but I had to make myself clear, and also excuse me for my grammar errorsbut I’m seventeen and I only study english three hours a week.

26. dorigo - October 6, 2007

Randall, thanks for your appreciation… I

Ciao Vera,

I think Jeff pictured some habits of our countrymen that do exist, although any generalization is bound to be imperfect. As you say, the average italian is not an idiot, although there are a few around.

I know Jeff personally (he is a colleague), and he is just as hard in judging americans as he is with italians, so maybe we can excuse him for his rudeness in this case…

Thank you for your visit,

27. Vera - October 6, 2007

Well, then there’s no problem with his rudeness… I only wanted to explain that we are – GENERALLY SPEAKING – not so bad as we are described, and, generally, we don’t resemble at all to Italians who badly represent our country: normally, we are as ashamed of them as you are (and I personally said Vaffanculo to more than an Italian).
The behaviours that were condemned are certainy present in many Italians, but not so many after all…
Thanks for you answer,

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