Learn Italian in Song: Una Donna per Amico

Lucio Battisti - Le avventure - Una donna per amico

The late, great Lucio Battisti again, with lyrics by Mogol. This song was played as the Italian athletes entered the stadium during the opening ceremonies of the Torino Winter Olympics.

The title means “A Woman for a Friend,” but you need to pay attention to the subtleties: amico is the masculine form of the noun (a female friend should be amica), so title seems to say that the singer chose a woman rather than a man as his best buddy. The song is about the consequences of that choice.

Ti Amo vs. Ti Voglio Bene

Ti amo (I love you) is used far more rarely in Italian than in English; an Italian would more often say Ti voglio bene – which translates literally as the rather tepid “I wish you well,” but is usually more warmly intended. Teenagers abbreviate it (for SMS and autographs) TVB.

Ti voglio bene is also used of love among friends, including of the same sex, whereas ti amo is reserved for romantic love for a spouse, lover, or life partner.

As for the video… dig those 70s styles! Battisti was never seen before or since with that mustache – thank god!

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A Woman for a Friend

Puo’ darsi ch’io non sappia cosa dico, It’s possible that I don’t know what I’m saying
scegliendo te – una donna – per amico, Choosing you – a woman – for a friend
ma il mio mestiere é vivere la vita But my job is to live my life
che sia di tutti i giorni o sconosciuta; Whether it’s everyday (ordinary) or unknown
ti amo, forte, debole compagna I love you, strong weak companion
che qualche volta impara e a volte insegna. Who sometimes learns and sometimes teaches.

L’eccitazione é il sintomo d’amore Excitement is the symptom of love
al quale non sappiamo rinunciare. Which we don’t know how to give up
Le conseguenze spesso fan soffrire, The consequences often make [us] suffer
a turno ci dobbiamo consolare We take turns consoling each other
e tu amica cara mi consoli And you, dear friend, console me
perché ci ritroviamo sempre soli. Because we find ourselves always alone.

Ti sei innamorata di chi? You’re in love with who?
Troppo docile, non fa per te. Too docile – he’s not right for you.
Lo so, divento antipatico I know, I become antipatico*
ma é sempre meglio che ipocrita. But that’s always better than a hypocrite
D’accordo, fa come vuoi – i miei consigli mai. Okay, do as you please – my advice never!
Mi arrendo fa come vuoi I give up, do as you please
ci ritroviamo come al solito poi We’ll find ourselves as usual

Ma che disastro, io mi maledico But what a disaster, I curse myself
ho scelto te – una donna – per amico, I chose you – a woman – as a friend
ma il mio mestiere é vivere la vita But my job is to live my life
che sia di tutti i giorni o sconosciuta; Whether it’s everyday (ordinary) or unknown
ti odio forte, debole compagna I hate you, strong weak companion
che poche volte impara e troppo insegna. Who rarely learns and too often teaches.

Non c’é una gomma ancor che non si buchi. There’s still no tire [in the world] that doesn’t get punctured.
Il mastice sei tu, mia vecchia amica. You’re the [structure], my old friend
La pezza sono io, ma che vergogna. I’m the patch – shame on me!**
Che importa, tocca a te, avanti, sogna. What does it matter, it’s your turn, come on, dream
Ti amo, forte, debole compagna I love you, strong weak companion
che qualche volta impara e a volte insegna. Who sometimes learns and sometimes teaches.

Mi sono innamorato? Si’, un po’. Am I in love? Yes, a little.
Rincoglionito? Non dico no. Made stupid? I don’t deny it.
Per te son tutte un po’ squallide. According to you, they’re all a bit squalid.
La gelosia non é lecita. Jealousy is not allowed.
Quello che voglio lo sai, non mi fermerai You know what I want, you won’t stop me.
Che menagramo che sei, What a pain you are.
eventualmente*** puoi sempre ridere poi If need be you can always laugh, then…

Ma che disastro, io mi maledico…

* simpatico, antipaticoSimpatico is by now familiar enough to English speakers that it probably needs no explanation – which is good, because it’s hard to translate! Antipatico is its opposite.

** che vergogna, che peccatoChe vergogna literally means “What a shame,” but not in the English sense – for that, Italians would use Che peccato – “What a sin”, whereas che vergogna means that the subject is, or should be, deeply ashamed. Interesting, for a supposedly Catholic nation, that shame is stronger than sin!

*** eventualmente – Here’s an example of a “false friend” – a word so closely related to one in your own language that you think you know how to use it, but you’d be wrong. (Italians trip going the other way.) “Eventually” in English means “in the long run,” or “after some time.” Eventualmente in Italian means “if that should be the case”, “if need be”.

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