Q:

What are some funny old Italian sayings?

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Quick Answer

One funny Italian expression is from the great Italian scientist and philosopher Galileo Galileii, who said “Non puoi insegnare niente a un uomo. Puoi solo aiutarlo a scoprire ciò che ha dentro di sé,” which means that no one can teach a man anything, because he must find it within himself. Another humorous saying is “il letto e l’opera del povero,” which translates to "bed is the poor man's opera."

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Full Answer

Galileo's observation refers to the fact that man is incapable of learning without looking inward and that true learning occurs through a process of self-discovery and awareness that enables man to pursue learning on his own. The English equivalent of this saying is the expression that compares feeding a man a fish versus teaching a man to fish.

The saying “il letto e l’opera del povero,” or “bed is the poor man’s opera” means that a poor man works so hard and has little energy or appreciation for anything other than sleep. It can have a derogatory meaning that the a poor and uneducated person lacks the sophistication or ability to enjoy or appreciate anything but sleep and sex. Additionally, it can have a more optimistic or less derogatory meaning that even the poorest man who cannot afford a night out on the town can enjoy the simplicity of sleeping or sex.

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