Italian family in car cartoon

Things Italian dads say

In Italy, fathers reign supreme. There is a special breed of patriarchs. These men are known for their artistry. In the craft of scolding their offspring, no one can beat them. No door left partly open or request for a lavish purchase goes unnoticed, for an Italian dad has an arsenal of witty remarks at the ready.

Ma ti sembro Onassis?

A favorite among these quips is the retort, “Ma ti sembro Onassis?” or “Do I look like Onassis to you?” It refers to the Greek shipping magnate, who amassed great wealth and power in the 20th century. It is unclear why Italian fathers fixate on Onassis, but generations of Italian children will continue to hear this line for years. Other variations of this phrase include “non sono la Banca d’Italia” or “I’m not the Bank of Italy,” as well as references to Italy’s cavalier, Silvio Berlusconi.

Family in car cartoon

Io non vado a rubare!

Italian dads use strong language when a child requests an expensive item. “Io non vado a rubare!” or “I don’t steal for a living!” is a common phrase used to convey the importance of financial prudence. Italian dads take great pride in their finances and expect their children to do the same.

Come ti ho fatto, ti distruggo!

Italian dads have an even more potent weapon in their arsenal. “Come ti ho fatto, ti distruggo,” or “I’ll destroy you just as easily as I made you.” It is a threat not to be taken lightly. This expression is only for displays of extreme disrespect or behavior beyond the pale. Italian fathers want nothing but the best for their children.

Questa casa non e’ un albergo!

For those adolescent rascals who can’t seem to obey the sacred rules of the household, Italian fathers have a reminder: “This house is not a hotel.” Late for dinner or returning home past curfew, any violation of the house’s law translates into a blunt reality check, no beating around the bush. Perhaps the phrase “You cannot come and go as you please” may follow, but the first part is usually enough.

Hai la coda?

Italian fathers have few things that upset them. And a door left open is one of them. When Italian dads intend to have the front door, bedroom door, or even a car door closed, it must be at all times. As a result, if an Italian child forgets to close the door behind them, they can expect to be asked if they have a tail: “Hai la coda?” – insinuating that having it would explain why they didn’t shut the door.

Perche’ no!

Those with the privilege (or misfortune, depending on how you view it) of being raised by an Italian father will undoubtedly know the phrase “Perche’ no?” all too well. When turning down yet another request from their child, the quintessential Italian dad doesn’t bother to come up with a reasonable explanation, simply uttering the well-known phrase “because I said no.” End of story.

Ma da chi hai preso?

But the darkest moment of doubt for Italian fathers comes when their child’s actions make them question their paternity. “Ma da chi hai preso?” – “Who did you get this from?” – is asked with dismay and bewilderment. The Italian father cannot understand where their child’s tendency towards reprehensible behavior comes from, refusing to accept that their genes may be responsible. Hours of silent introspection often follow the utterance of this phrase.

Wrapping Up

Italian fathers are famous for their tough love, but they do have a soft side. Ultimately, their goal is to teach their children the importance of respect, responsibility, and financial prudence. And in their unique way, they do it well.
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  1. Your humorous exploration of these phrases is both entertaining and insightful. As someone who grew up in a multilingual household, I can relate to the power of these parental expressions transcending language boundaries.

    While my family’s native tongue isn’t Italian, we still had our own set of distinctive sayings. And they even conveyed similar messages of financial prudence, responsibility, and respect. It’s fascinating how cultural nuances are passed down through generations, shaping our upbringing and understanding of family values.

    Your article highlights the universal theme of tough love and parents’ insistence (regardless of cultural background) to instill life lessons in their children. It’s a reminder that while the words may vary, the underlying parental intentions remain remarkably consistent across diverse cultures.

    1. Hi, Ashley. Thanks for sharing insights into your upbringing and the similitudes between sayings inside your house and these Italian ones depicted in the article. There seems to be a linen thread running through human families, inherently knowing and wanting what is best for their offspring.

  2. I love Italy (having been there on holiday a few times) but I don’t know any Italians personally so this was an interesting insight into how they speak to their children.  I found myself exclaiming these phrases out loud as I read them, practicing my Italian accent!

    It is interesting to note that fathers here in the UK have similar responses to their children.  Rather than saying “Ma ti sembro Onassis?” they would say “Do you think I’m made of money?”.  It would appear that whichever nationality we are, we all have similar ways of dealing with our children and ultimately want the best for them and for them to be thoughtful and respectful.  

    Thank you

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