Learn Italian from Pinocchio: chapter 1, part 4

In this post, you will turn your attention to the following portion of text from chapter 1 of Le avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi:

Appena maestro Ciliegia ebbe visto quel pezzo di legno, si rallegrò tutto; e dandosi una fregatina di mani per la contentezza, borbottò a mezza voce:

— Carlo Collodi, Le avventure di Pinocchio, capitolo 1

Appena ebbe visto means as soon as he had seen. Ebbe visto is the third-person singular, trapassato remoto conjugation of the verb vedere (to see).

Rallegrare qualcuno means to make someone happy, to cheer someone up. Mi hai veramente rallegrato (you’ve really made me happy, you’ve really cheered me up). As soon as maestro Ciliegia saw the piece of wood, si rallegrò tutto. The reflexive verb rallegrarsi means to become happy (although English usually just says to be happy). Si rallegrò tutto or si è rallegrato tutto, then, means he got very happy (or simply he was very happy).

Here are two more examples using rallegrarsi: mi sono rallegrato a quella notizia (I was [became] very happy to hear that news), mi rallegro proprio che tutto sia finito bene (I am very happy that everything turned out well). The stress in the first-person rallegro is on the second syllable.

Una fregatina di mani is a rubbing (together) of the hands, such as when a person is eager to do something. Fregatina (rubbing) comes from the verb fregare (to rub). The expression fregarsi le mani means to rub one’s hands together. For example, if you saw a very happy person rub his hands together, you might say: si è fregato le mani tutto contento.

Rather than fregarsi le mani, the text uses darsi una fregatina di mani (to give oneself a rubbing of the hands); more specifically, it says e dandosi una fregatina di mani (and giving himself a rubbing of the hands). The stress in dandosi is on the first syllable. Similarly, you can also say in Italian dandomi (giving myself) and dandoti (giving yourself).

If you can say fregarsi le mani, you can also say fregarsi gli occhi (to rub one’s eyes). Si è fregato gli occhi per il sonno (literally, he rubbed his eyes out of tiredness). In the text, you learn that maestro Ciliegia rubbed his hands together per la contentezza (out of satisfaction, happiness). This use of per might be unfamiliar to you; you would be wise to take note of it: fregarsi le mani per la contentezza (to rub one’s hands out of satisfaction, because one is satisfied), fregarsi gli occhi per il sonno (to rub one’s eyes out of tiredness, because one is tired).

Remember, although the singular mano (hand) and plural mani (hands) appear to be masculine nouns, they are in fact feminine: la mano and le mani.

As for the expression borbottare a mezza voce, the verb borbottare means to mumble, to mutter. Non fa che borbottare (all he does is mumble). A mezza voce (literally, at half voice) means under one’s breath (i.e., not loud, in a low voice). Borbottare a mezza voce, then, means to mutter under one’s breath.

This post’s portion of text breaks down as follows: Appéna maèstro Ciliègia èbbe vìsto (as soon as maestro Ciliegia had seen) quel pèzzo di légno (that piece of wood), si rallegrò tùtto (he became very happy); e dàndosi ùna fregatìna di màni (and giving himself a rub of the hands) per la contentézza (out of satisfaction), borbottò a mèzza vóce (he mumbled under his breath):

Key Italian usages from this post include: rallegràre qualcùno (to make someone happy), rallegràrsi (to be happy, to become happy), fregàre (to rub), fregàrsi le màni (to rub one’s hands), fregàrsi gli òcchi (to rub one’s eyes), la fregatìna di màni (rubbing of one’s hands), la màno (hand), le màni (hands), la contentézza (happiness, satisfaction), il sònno (tiredness, sleepiness), borbottàre (to mumble, to mutter), la vóce (voice), mèzzo (half), a mèzza vóce (under one’s breath).