My Italian Word of the Week - Farfalla (n. Butterfly)

Smithsonian Live Butterfly Exhibit - Taken by Me - April 2014

Smithsonian Live Butterfly Exhibit - Taken by Me - April 2014

Farfalla (n.)

n. butterfly
adj. butterfly-shaped (ex. bow tie, butterfly valve)
n. fig. person who is easily changeable, fickle
n. butterfly stroke (swimming)
n. type of pasta
definitions ;

Welcome to this week's installment of IWOW.

I'm a wee bit lazy today, so I picked something simple (and for which I have a picture). Farfalla is a butterfly. A farfalla can be used to indicate something is shaped like a butterfly. For example, una cravatta a farfalla  is a bow tie (i.e. a butterfly-shaped neck tie). Una valvola a farfalla is the throttle valve (i.e. a butterfly-shaped valve). A levered door handle/door lever is una maniglia a farfalla, and when car doors open by lifting upward (gull-wing), the feature is referred to as a farfalla

For most Americans, however, farfalla is a type of pasta, which brings us to this Barilla commercial from 1999. There's actually no talking in this spot (sì, sono pigra questa settimana), but it's cute and there's some text. It also is a really nice review of hypothetical sentences, also known to many an Italian student as "that darn imperfect subjunctive and conditional combination."

Uomo: Se fossi una farfalla volerei da te.

So, believe or not, "Fossi" is a derivative of the verb essere (to be). As you saw above, sono is the first person present tense conjugation of this verb (i.e. am). Fossi is the imperfect subjunctive mood. Before you launch into a rant about the subjunctive (which I have done upon occasion), remember it exists in English too. We don't notice it as native speakers, but it has boggled the mind of many an ESL student as well. Se (io) fossi, is equivalent to the English "If I were." I've tried explaining to a non-native speaker why one uses "were" instead of "was" or "am," and I've had no success. I usually end the discussion with "It's just the way English works."

Volerei is the present conditional conjugation of the verb volare (to fly) and NOT volere (to want). The present conditional is the equivalent of the English "would do something," so (io) volerei da te translates to "I would fly to your place." Put the two parts together, and we get "If I were a butterfly, I would fly to your place."

Donna: E io ti mangerei.

Since the two are still chatting in the hypothetical, the lady also responds in the conditional. Mangerei is the first person present conditional conjugation of mangiare (to eat). The entire sentence translates to, "And I would eat you [if you were a butterfly pasta...]."

Donna: È bello cenare con le nostre farfalle...

This sentence doesn't have any weird tenses. E bello translates to "It's good." Cenare is the verb to dine (i.e. to eat dinner). In plural, la farfalla turns into le farfalle. Put it all together, and we get "It's good to dine with our butterflies." (Yes, I know it's cheesy. 90s commercial for pasta--enough said). 

Uomo: È come guadare la stessa stella. 

Guardare is the verb "to watch/to look at." You probably already know stella means star and stesso/stessa means the same. Come means a lot of things, but in this case I think the whole sentence comes together to say "It's as though (we're) looking at the same star."

Donna: Che padre romantico avrà il nostro bambino.

Dulcis in fundo, padre means father and bambino mean's child. Avrà is the third person future tense of the verb avere (to have). The significance here is that she used avrà (simple future) as opposed to avrebbe (present conditional) to indicate a definite event in the far future (as in not tomorrow/next week/or even next month--which Italians tend to use the present tense for). This line translates to "What a romantic father our child will have." (i.e. I'm pregnant).

Since I've been avoiding carbs, I'm now quite hungry. Ciao, tutti! Ci si vede il giovedì prossimo. (Good-bye all! See you again next Thursday.)

Disclaimer: I am writing this as a student of Italian. If there is anyone out there who would like to add to or correct my posts, please leave a comment.


Tara Quan

Globetrotter, lover of languages, and romance author, Tara Quan has an addiction for crafting tales with a pinch of spice and a smidgen of kink. Inspired by her travels, she enjoys tossing her kick-ass heroines and alpha males into exotic contemporary locales, fantasy worlds, and post-apocalyptic futures. Visit Tara at