Learn Italian from Pinocchio: chapter 3, part 14

After being returned to Geppetto by the carabiniere, Pinocchio throws himself to the ground and attracts the attention of standers-by. You will now look at the following portion of text from chapter 3 of Le avventure di Pinocchio by Carlo Collodi:

Allora lo prese per la collottola, e, mentre lo riconduceva indietro, gli disse tentennando minacciosamente il capo: — Andiamo subito a casa. Quando saremo a casa, non dubitare che faremo i nostri conti! — Pinocchio, a questa antifona, si buttò per terra, e non volle più camminare. Intanto i curiosi e i bighelloni principiavano a fermarsi lì dintorno e a far capannello.

— Carlo Collodi, Le avventure di Pinocchio, capitolo 3

Geppetto grabs Pinocchio by the back of his neck: lo prese per la collottola. The expression here is prendere qualcuno per la collottola, which can also be said as afferrare qualcuno per la collottola. The Italian word for the scruff, nape or back of one’s neck is la collottola; it derives from the masculine noun collo, meaning neck. Be sure to stress the correct syllable: collòttola.

The expression ricondurre qualcuno indietro means to lead someone back, to take someone back. In the text, you find mentre lo riconduceva indietro, which you can understand as meaning as he took him back (home).

Geppetto speaks to Pinocchio in a threatening manner, shaking his head: tentennando minacciosamente il capo. You will remember that il capo is another way of saying la testa, which means head. Tentennare il capo means to shake one’s head. The adverb minacciosamente (threateningly) derives from the adjective minaccioso (threatening), which in turn derives from the noun la minaccia (threat).

la minaccia di guerra
the threat of war

parole minacciose
threatening words

fissare minacciosamente
to stare threateningly

Geppetto says to Pinocchio: Andiamo subito a casa (let us go straight home). Quando saremo a casa, non dubitare che faremo i nostri conti (when we are home, you can be sure that we shall settle this matter [do not doubt that we shall settle our accounts]).

You will notice the use of a casa twice in what Geppetto said; he uses the expressions andare a casa (to go home) and essere a casa (to be at home).

Non dubitare literally means do not doubt.

What about faremo i nostri conti? Conti (from the singular conto) literally means accounts, but you can understand it as meaning matters here. Faremo i nostri conti, then, means we shall settle our matters.

Pinocchio, upon hearing Geppetto’s threat that they would be dealing with matters at home, threw himself to the ground: si buttò per terra (he threw himself to the ground) and refused to walk: non volle più camminare (he refused to walk; more literally: he did not want to walk anymore). Volle is the third-person singular, passato remoto conjugation of the verb volere (to want). Buttare means to throw; buttarsi means to throw oneself.

Ho buttato via le sigarette.
I threw the cigarettes away.

Mi ha buttato per terra.
He threw me to the ground.

If you back up a bit in the text now, you see the phrase a questa antifona. In English, antifona (pronounced antìfona) is antiphon. In liturgical music, an antiphon is a short chant sung after a psalm verse. In the following expression, this sung response that is the antiphon has lent its name, in modern Italian usage, to a subject harped on about by a speaker:

ripetere la stessa antifona
to sing the same old song, to go on about the same old thing

Antifona can also be found in the following expression, where it refers to a veiled threat (a threat made indirectly):

capire l’antifona
to take the hint (that is, to understand what the speaker is saying indirectly)

Ha capito l’antifona ed è scappato.
He took the hint and got out of there.

The sense of the last use above is what you find in the text: a questa antifona, si buttò per terra. The antifona in question is Geppetto’s indication that Pinocchio would be getting into a great deal of trouble back home, which he warns Pinocchio about by saying faremo i nostri conti (we shall deal with our matters).

When Pinocchio throws himself to the ground, he attracts the attention of standers-by. Collodi has used two different nouns to describe these people: curiosi and bighelloni. Un curioso is a busybody, a rubbernecker. It quite obviously comes from the adjective curioso, meaning curious. Un bighellone, on the other hand, is a dawdler or loafer.

On highways, i curiosi have a tendency of creating traffic problems when slowing down to view accident scenes.

Getting back to the story, the busybodies and loafers started to stand around: principiavano a fermarsi lì dintorno (they started to stand around), and to crowd together: far capannello. Un capannello is a small group of people that have come together in the street, such as when they wish to listen to a speaker — or watch a wooden marionette have a fit in public.

This post’s portion of text can be understood as follows: Allóra lo prése per la collòttola (then he took him by the scruff of the neck), e, méntre lo riconducéva indiètro (and as he took him back), gli dìsse tentennàndo minacciosaménte il càpo (he said to him, shaking his head threateningly): — Andiàmo sùbito a càsa (let us go straight home). Quàndo sarémo a càsa (when we are home), non dubitàre che farémo i nòstri cónti (do not doubt that we shall settle our matters)! — Pinòcchio, a quésta antìfona (Pinocchio, at this indication), si buttò per tèrra (threw himself to the ground), e non vòlle più camminàre (and refused to walk). Intànto i curiósi e i bighellóni (meanwhile, busybodies and dawdlers) principiàvano a fermàrsi lì dintórno (started to stand around) e a far capannèllo (and to crowd together).

Key Italian usages appearing in this post include: il còllo (neck), la collòttola (scruff, nape of the neck), prèndere per la collòttola (to grab by the scruff of one’s neck), afferràre per la collòttola (to grab by the scruff of one’s neck), ricondùrre indiètro (to take back), il càpo (head), la tèsta (head), tentennàre il càpo (to shake one’s head), la minàccia (threat), minaccióso (threatening), minacciosaménte (threateningly), la guèrra (war), la paròla (word), fissàre (to stare), andàre a càsa (to go home), èssere a càsa (to be at home), dubitàre (to doubt), un cónto (account), buttàre (vìa) (to throw [away]), buttàre per tèrra (to throw to the ground), la sigarétta (cigarette), ùna antìfona (antiphon), ripètere la stéssa antìfona (to go on about the same old thing), capìre l’antìfona (to take the hint), scappàre (to take off, to escape), curióso (curious), il curióso (busybody, rubbernecker), il bighellóne (dawdler, loafer), principiàre (to start), fermàrsi (to stop oneself), lì dintórno (around, in that area), il capannèllo (small group of people), far capannèllo (to crowd together).