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Mangia! Mangia!

Italian Terms, Proverbs, and Sayings Using the Word Mangia


Mangia! Mangia! It's a term that reminds everyone that Italians have a reputation, deserved or not, for being buongustai (epicures, gourmets). Whether in popular culture, advertising, literature, cinema, or the abundance of Italian-themed restaurants throughout the world, Italian food—buying it, preparing it, eating it—seems to serve as the exemplar for the human condition. In fact, there are a multitude of Italian terms, sayings, and proverbs that use some form of the verb mangiare (to eat).

Terms Using Mangiare
Italian compound nouns (nomi composti) with a form of mangiare include the following:

astenersi dal mangiare: abstain from eating; fast
fare da mangiare per: to cook for (one's family)
finire di mangiare, finire tutto il pasto: eat up
mangiafuoco: blusterer, braggart, swashbuckler
mangiamoccoli: hypocritically self-righteous person
mangianastri: cassette player
mangiapagnotte: someone who receives a public salary working with little effort
mangiapane a tradimento: scrounger
mangiapreti: rabid anticlerical
mangiare a sazietà: eat your fill
mangiare bene: to eat well
mangiare come un maiale: to eat like a pig
mangiare da cani: eat badly
mangiare fuori: dine out
mangiare la polvere: bite the dust
mangiare le unghie: nail-biting
mangiarospi: water-snake
mangiasoldi: slot machine
mangiatoia: manger, trough
mangiatore di fuoco: fire-eater
mangiatore di spade: sword swallower
mangiatrice di uomini: maneater
mangiatutto: big eater

The verb mangiare is also the basis for the character name Mangiafuoco (Fire-Eater), the fictional wealthy director of the Great Marionette Theatre in The Adventures of Pinocchio.

Proverbs Referring to Mangiare
The slogan Chi "vespa" mangia le mele... was part of a famous advertising campaign by Piaggio from 1969-1971 to promote the Vespa motorino. The Italian language, though, has many other words of wisdom relating to eating.

Chi mangia e non invita, possa strozzarsi con ogni mollica.
He who eats alone and invites no one, will choke with every crumb.

Chi mangia solo crepa solo.
He who eats alone dies alone.

Ciò che si mangia con gusto non fa mai male.
What you eat with pleasure will never make you sick.

Mangiare senza bere è come il tuono senza pioggia.
Eating without drinking is like thunder without the rain.

Mangia quello che piace a te, vesti come piace agli altri.
Eat what you like, but wear what others like.

Non si vive per mangiare ma si mangia per vivere.
One doesn't live to eat, but eats to live.

Derogatory Terms Using Mangia
For historical, political, and cultural reasons, in many countries there is a tradition of fierce territoriality, antipathy, competition, and prejudice among various geographical regions. In Italy, given the geopolitical background of its former city-states, the expressed animosity can be especially pronounced (and creative!). In Italian, there are several terms used to refer to individuals from other regions—admittedly perjorative given the context—that include a form of the verb mangiare. These spicy expressions illustrate the menu of choices provided by the language. Unfortunately, poking fun (or scorn) on anyone on account of their dietary habits or economic status (mangiapolenta, mangiafagioli, mangiacipolle, mangiaglio, mangiapeperoncino) is not uncommon in Italy.

In fairy tales, an ogre who eats children; also figuratively, a grim-looking person who is in reality mild and harmless

Christian eater—a menacing, threating person, but more in words than in deeds

bean eater— worthless or coarse person; disparaging reference to Tuscans because so many traditional dishes in the region use beans as a main ingredient

macaroni-eater—native of Napoli

potato eater—one who habitually eat potatoes or is greedy; used as an epithet to refer to Germans

polenta eater—used as an epithet when referring to those from the Veneto and Lombardia

people eater—oppressor, exploiter, depot

soap eater—pejorative name given to Southerners

tallow eater—name given to the Austrian soldiers by the subjects of Kingdom of Lombardy-Venetia (during the 1800's)

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