- Tu is what you say when you are talking to your friends, younger people, and other people who you know well and have a close relationship with
- Lei is what you use when you are speaking to strangers, your elders, or people whom you want to show a certain level of respect to
Wanna know something cool? Italians have this great way of using the formal “you”, even when in the heat of a verbal dispute.
Using Lei when arguing with somebody you don’t know or who you want to show respect for even as your chewin’ them out is something that I just find so hilarious! It’s a linguistically artful way of telling somebody off while still remaining polite despite the fact that what you’re yelling may well be laced with swear words and insults.
To give you an idea of how funny this concept is (at least to a native English speaker living in Italy), here are some masterful examples of the vocalizations you might hear when people “politely argue” in Italian. Please note: to get the most out of these, you really should envision them being said in a posh British accent.
- Good sir, I heartily insist that you keep your !@%#ing dog’s mouth shut!
- I should find it swell if you would stop double parking your sh!& box of a moped in front of my mother!@%#ing car!
- Would you be so kind as to go take a good sh!& for yourself, you !@%#ing idiot!
- Hello there, outspoken b!+ch! Please refrain from busting my !@%#ing balls!
- It is with the utmost respect that I entreat you to go !@%# thyself … with vim and vigor, mind you!
So, the translations of what was being said in Italian are not exactly spot on, but since English doesn’t have the formal “you” there was no other way to really convey the idea. Plus, it gives me a valid excuse to use lots of bad words!
Now I won’t be the one to write down any Italian swear words here in this article, but if you guys want to leave a comment with any Italian parolacce that you may know, I certainly won’t be able to !@%#ing stop you! 🙂