Roman Attitude

February 27, 2015 / Local Interest
Rome, Lazio

Back in September, a 42 minute video rant was released in which the Islamic State (IS) mentioned that “this will be your last crusade, we will invade you, and God willing we will destroy the cross, conquer Rome and take your women.”

Without in any way forgetting the many people who have atrociously died at their hands, around these parts this fairly forgettable boilerplate barbarians-at-the-gate proclamation would likely have run its “15 megabytes of fame” course if it hadn’t been for one word in there… Rome.

Now, let us put aside for a second that any reference to “Rome” in the oral-tradition of Islam explicitly refers to the Eastern Roman Empire, capital Constantinople (now Istanbul), obviously long-gone.

Also, put aside that nowadays, at least in the minds of these Middle Eastern End-of-Days millenarians, Rome interchangeably means Christianity, the West, the infidels, America, and/or its allies.

Despite all this, or perhaps due to this (in some contorted circular logic), there is no doubt in anyone’s mind that the IS militants would be more than happy to very concretely follow through with their “symbolic” threat on the actual tufo, travertine, and cobblestone Rome itself.

And in fact, many Romans took this threat at face value. Except they responded in a very Roman way.

How? Well, Romans pride themselves on letting nothing surprise them. The idea is that they’ve been through 3000 years of history and so have seen it all. When confronted with something new for example, the standard “excitable” reaction (say 10% of the time), will be a lukewarm “Anvedi.” This is roughly equivalent to disinterested “Huh.. look at that.” On the unflappable spectrum, this sits a sliver short of “who gives a s#%t.” The rest of the time, Romans will crack a crude joke.

Which is exactly what happened in September in reaction to the IS threat. Of course this being the era of the interwebs echo chamber, this caught on to the point that the Washington Post wrote an article a few days ago about the Romans’ “reactions.”

Trouble is, the Roman cracks that WaPo published were the milk toast versions, either due to editorial censure or because they didn’t look at the original reactions from back in September.

We would like to set the record straight, and list some of the original ones. For anthropological reasons, of course. (Disclaimer: while these comments might put smiles on our faces, let’s keep in mind all those who are suffering and have suffered at the hands of the IS.)


– Se ce fanno no squillo buttamo la pasta. (If they give us a jingle as they get close, we’ll put the pasta to boil.)

– Se arrivate verso le 5 del pomeriggio, nun fate er raccordo, rimanete imbotijati! (If you get here at 5 pm, don’t take the GRA ring road, you’ll get stuck in traffic!)

– Scegliete un giorno che non c’è lo sciopero… (Choose a day with no strike.)


– Appena scoprono chi governa in Italia ci chiedono scusa e ci aiutano (As soon as they see our politicians, they’ll say sorry and give us a hand.)

– Saranno soprattutto disarmati dalla coglionaggine del nostro sindaco (They’ll be disarmed by the idiocy of our mayor.)

– Alla prima cartella di Equitalia sti stronzi tornano a casa loro!!!! (At the first Tax Collectors letter, these assholes will run home.)


– Se te porti via mi moglie la croce c’è l’hai tu a vita. (If you take my wife, you will have a cross to bear for life.)

– Vogliono la mia donna? Sia chiaro quello che se pija, dopo nun se riporta! (They want my woman? Let’s be very clear though, no returns!)

– Oh, mi socera ve la incarto (Hey, I’ll gift wrap my mother-in-law for you.)

By women…

– Finalmente se tromba (Finally, I’m gonna get some around here.)

– iihh… ma pure quelle de na certa?? (Oooh… us elderly girls too!??)


by GB Bernardini

Editor, Italian Notebook

16 Responses to “Roman Attitude”

  1. elizabeth

    I understand the dichotomy between the reality of IS and the responses, but honestly,

    couldn’t you finnd any comments about women that weren’t jokes so old the ancient romans told them, and, more importantly, responses that you indicate are ‘by women’ that don’t involve welcoming rape? I know this newsletter is a trifle, but it’s upsetting to see anything edited by a man that is so tone deaf as it relates to women. You’re trying to say the Romans are spitting in the face of threats, right? Strength, not weakness, right? Only for the boys, or do you want your girls to be strong too. It’s the 21st century, even in Rome.

  2. Mary Cameron

    Gteat responses to the IS comment. i wondered how Romans felt about being drawn into the fight–at least verbally. Thank you for sharing!

  3. Being originally from Rome and living in Washington DC, I read this article on the WPost, but, as you say, many comments weren’t included…I can perfectly sense the Roman way, un po’ coatto, but genuine…Thanks for mentioning “Anvedi”, which reminded of my beloved father, Roman 100% who used it often.
    As you say, we don’t forget the atrocities done (how could we?), but this ironic answers reflect also the feeling of many people around the world, asking to stop all this…If I were in Rome I would say “ISIS, falla finita”. Thanks for sharing the censored answers! E.

  4. Well said GB; well said. Just the tonic that was needed.

    Roma continuerà a vivere!

  5. Jane Ellis

    Funny except did’ realize how sexist Roman men are; comments on women like a 1950’s time warp. Gives me pause.

  6. Leslie X.

    GB, thanks for your post. We could all take a lesson from Roman attitudes. Je suis Charlie e Io sono Romano.

  7. In the spirit of the “devil may care” comments you published, I would say the same about the Romans: Though I love Rome, the current residents will not feel so flip when the City is sacked for real. These religious maniacs are killing thousands, so they would love to get their hands on Romans and do more killing. In the past historical Sacks, I suspect the Romans who were raped, maimed, enslaved, etc. didn’t appreciate any jokes about their resulting condition. Only the amnesia of being so removed from their ancestors plight can lead to such mindless humor by modern Romans.

  8. Best Italian Note I’ve seen yet. I read it a second time after a first reading a few hours ago, and I’m still highly amused. I like the ones about not coming during rush hour, how IS will be disarmed by the idiocy of the mayor … Thanks! Very funny!

  9. What a lovely “capture” of Roman irony…even philosophy of life. The ISIS threat deserves a humorous retort! Bravo!

  10. Gian Banchero

    Yes, we are all well aware of the troubles coming from outside of Europe but realize that those Know-Nothings are a small minority that are for now damaging their people more than others. Here in the East Bay of the San Francisco Bay Area (California) I know about 22 Muslims from Turkey, Syria, Afghanistan, etc., etc., most are refugees from the turmoil in their homeland; all these people I consider as family, they remind me of the immigrant Italians of years back. As with the Italians they share food, vegetable plants, help (I have health problems) and generosity of heart. Though we differ in religions they all show great respect for my Catholicism and with a few we sometimes pray together. When I’m in their gardens viewing their vegetables, fruit trees and poultry I’m back in the Italian community of my youth… In the words of my departed Papa’: Don’t judge an individual by his race nor a race by an individual”. Basta!!

  11. Marilyn Pesaturo McKenna

    There is absolutely no place for ‘humor’ of any kind in light of the atrocities ISIS is perpetrating against innocents…children, woman, men…who they consider infidels. And if the civilized countries of the world don’t recognize them for the evil that they are – as Hitler was in the 40s – then …shame on all of you who make light of ISIS – their raping of children, their beheading, shooting and burning to death of men who are simply trying to live their lives…
    it is a horror beyond belief, not to be made light of with foolish jokes. Real human beings are suffering at the hands of the devil personified.

  12. Giuseppe Spano
    Giuseppe Spano

    l’atteggiamento sorridente è un bene per lo spirito, essendo in guardia è un bene per l’anima ..

  13. Komal Dhillon

    Just so enjoy Italian Notebook, you capture the feel n flavor of Italian life…loved the Romans humor !

  14. Bill Kreisher

    Very funny, and classic Roman humor. New Yorkers and Romans are (quite literally?) separated at birth. Thanks for the entertainment!

  15. Marie Castino Ramey

    Well, while I understand and realize the seriousness of the situation with IS, there has to be some humor in this world, so I applaud the response; afterall the Roman’s make fun of themselves. MCR


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