Okay, confession time. I actually learned Italian before I learned English, and even though as I grew up I lost the ability to speak Italian fluently, I still speak it pretty much every day. As a result, I sometimes slip in Italian words when I'm speaking English. And if I'm not with my family, close friends, or even in my neighbourhood? This can lead to a lot of accidental confusion. But it's okay. I know I'm not alone in this. Montreal Italians have a lot of colloquial expressions that integrate English, Italian, and sometimes French, all in the same word or sentence. Some people get what we're saying. Some people don't. If you're part of the latter group of people, don't sweat it. Here's a list of the 10 most common things that Montreal Italians say.
Which is only rarely used to mean "brother." What is it used as, you ask? An adjective. A verb. A noun. A pronoun. Anything, really. I once had a whole conversation just using the word "bro." Protip: the word "fra" holds pretty much the same connotation. So if you hear any one of these two things, you know how to respond.
2. "What a scem!"
If your Italian friend is calling you a scemo, scema, or just plain scem, then you know you dungoofed.Scemo, pronounced sh-em-oh, is basically the Italian equivalent of the word "idiot." Except worse. Trust me when I say you want to avoid being called a scem whenever possible.
3. "Che ne saccio."
AKA, che ne satch. Straight up, this is just a polite way of saying "How the hell should I know?" Also interchangeable with the word "Boh."
4. "He came in looking pure shpack that night."
Before there was "on point", there was shpack.
5. "Hard, bro. Hard."
In this context, the word "hard" doesn't mean difficult. Instead, it's used to express just how much someone agrees with something you've said. For example, if I say it's a nice day, and you respond, "Yeah, hard," then I know that my comment on the weather really resonated with you.
6. "Me, I don’t know."
The number of times I've heard this said - or said this myself - is literally immeasurable. A lot of people say "Me, I," but for some reason, Montreal Italians end up saying it the most. I'm not sure why this is - but me, I've just learned to accept it.
7. "I'm all worried."
Said sarcastically 100% of the time, "I'm all worried" basically means that you couldn't care less. Bonus points if you say it while waving your hands in the air (like you just don't care.)
8. "I’m all rovinat today. Let’s go for an espresso."
Rovinat is a bastardization of the Italian word rovinato, which means ruined. It's used to describe how you feel after a long day at work. Or a long night out. No judgements.
9. "Can’t come out tonight, I have to help my Nonna make sauce."
Nonna is "grandmother" in Italian, and if your Italian friend is telling you that they can't come out because they're helping their grandmother - then don't push it. They mean business. They might be making enough tomato sauce to last a year straight. They might be picking grapes from the driveway vineyard. They might be planting tomatoes in the giardino. No matter what weird thing they're doing... just accept they won't be coming out any time soon.
10. "I got this wine from my cantine… Don’t worry, it’s for sure good."
A cantine is a cold room used to make and store food, wine, cheese, cold cuts - you name it, it's probably in the cantine. It's also a room of insurmountable treasures if you know when to go looking. If your Italian friend has brought you a homemade treat from the cantine (like wine), then you know it's real.