Through most of my career as a journalist and author, I've written, not about Italian, but about health (la salute). In what I think of as my day job (il mio vero lavoro), I've authored 25 editions of the best-selling college health textbook, An Invitation to Health. The latest (above) just came out this month.
“If you’ve got your health, you’ve got everything” (Quando c’è la salute, c’è tutto) my mother used to say. She was right. Nothing is more valuable than a healthy mind in a healthy body (mente sana in corpo sano, from the Latin mens sana in corpore sano). English speakers strive to be healthy as a horse; Italians, to be healthy as a fish (sano come un pesce).
“Salute!“ Italians say when someone sneezes. What more could you wish someone than to be in buona or ottima salute (good or excellent health) or pieno di salute (full of health)? The happy, fit young skier on the cover (copertina) of my new book seems to scoppiare di salute (burst with health) or sprizzare salute da tutti i pori (squirt health from all pores). All of us would like to be in piena forma (in full or perfect shape).
Being in bad shape (essere in cattiva forma) inspires a host of colorful idioms in Italian. If you have un brutta cera (literally a bad wax), you may stare poco bene (be just a little well) or non sentirsi molto in forma (not feel in very good shape).
Those who ammalarsi gravemente (are gravely ill) may avere un piede nella tomba (have one foot in the grave), essere spacciato (be done for), essere sul letto di morte (be on one’s deathbed), or essere tra la vita e la morte (be between life and death.
If you find yourself in such dire straits, you must guardare la morte in faccia (look death in the face) and reggere l’anima coi denti (hold on to your soul with your teeth). With luck and good care, you soon will rimettersi in salute (put yourself back into health).
Staying healthy (rimanere in buona salute) isn’t complicated. A doctor I know offers this simple but sound prescription (prescrizione) -- a true invitation to good health (un vero invito alla salute). Here are the essential components:
0 cigarettes (sigarette)
5 servings of fruits and vegetables (porzioni di frutta e verdura) a day (al giorno)
10 minutes of silence or relaxation (minuti di silenzio e riposo) a day
30 Body Mass Index below 30 (Indice di massa corporea inferiore a 30)
150 minutes of exercise (minuti di attività fisica) a week (alla settimana)
Go for a check-up (esame / visita medica di controllo) regularly. And don't forget: Una mela al giorno leva il medico di torno. In Italy as elsewhere, an apple a day keeps the doctor away.
Words and Expressions
mettersi in malattia / essere in malattia -- to take sick leave from work, to be on sick leave
farne una malattia / fare una malattia di qualcosa -- to make oneself ill over something
Guarisci presto! -– Get well soon!
“Prevenire è meglio che curare” -- prevention is better than cure
Dianne Hales is the author of MONA LISA: A Life Discovered and LA BELLA LINGUA: My Love Affair with Italian, the World's Most Enchanting Language.