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per non saper né leggere né scrivere

Discussion in 'Italian-English' started by renminds, May 16, 2009.

  1. renminds

    renminds Senior Member

    Puglia - Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Hi everybody! :)

    I wonder how to express the concept of "per non saper né leggere né scrivere".
    For those who don't know its meaning, it means that you do something without much knowledge, but you do that way because you have some practical experience.
    Here it is an example:

    "Per non saper né leggere né scrivere, io farei controllare la batteria (della macchina)".

    "Even not being an expert, I would have car's battery checked."

    I know that probably my translation fits, but I would like to know if there is a more colorful English expression to lead the same meaning, closer to the Italian one.

    Don't say that is "in my humble opinion"! :D (if you can avoid it)

    Thanks for your help.

    Bye,
    Renminds
     
  2. Murphy

    Murphy Senior Member

    Sicily, Italy
    English, UK
    I'd say; I'm no expert but I would have the car battery checked.

    "I'm no expert but..." is quite a common way of giving your "humble" opinion in English;)
     
  3. renminds

    renminds Senior Member

    Puglia - Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Thanks Murphy.
    Would you say that "I'm no expert but..." let you understand that who speaks has some experience of what he is talking about?
    I think this is the peculiarity of "per non saper né leggere né scrivere".

    Bye,
    Renminds
     
  4. Murphy

    Murphy Senior Member

    Sicily, Italy
    English, UK
    I'd say it's usually meant in that way. It's a way of qualifying the advice that you are about to give, like saying there's no guarantee that you are right but that your personal experience leads you to this opinion....

    I'm afraid I can't think of anything as idiomatic as the Italian expression. Anyone else got any ideas?
     
  5. renminds

    renminds Senior Member

    Puglia - Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Okay, I got it.
    I appreciate your effort. I will wait for some ideas too.

    Bye,
    Renminds
     
  6. xmas50 Senior Member

    USA
    Italian - Italy
    Io interpreto “per non saper né leggere né scrivere” in un altro modo. Secondo me vuol dire “visto che non sono un esperto e non me ne intendo, per andare sul sicuro, ti consiglierei di far controllare la batteria prima di partire”, quindi lo tradurrei con

    To play it safe
    To be on the safe side


    I'm no expert, so to be on the safe side I would have the car's battery checked before you leave on that long trip


    Che cosa ne dite?
     
  7. renminds

    renminds Senior Member

    Puglia - Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Yours is a good point, and then those are good translations for "per andare sul sicuro", thanks... but I don't know :confused::eek:, my sensation is more like "pur nella mia ignoranza farei... [qualcosa di ovvio certo, che deriva dall'esperienza o meglio da una certa saggezza pratica/popolare, ma che può rivelarsi utile o giusto nella circostanza]" and not necessarily it serves "per andare sul sicuro". Another example could be:

    "La macchina ti si è fermata di colpo? Per non saper né leggere né scrivere, io controllerei che ci sia ancora benzina."

    Bye,
    Renminds
     
  8. xmas50 Senior Member

    USA
    Italian - Italy
    Effettivamente in questo tuo secondo esempio

    "La macchina ti si è fermata di colpo? Per non saper né leggere né scrivere, io controllerei che ci sia ancora benzina."

    la tua interpretazione è piu` corretta. Quindi proporre/fare qualcosa di logico, di pratico e di basilare senza necessariamente dover essere degli esperti; come se fosse: Io sono ignorante in materia, non so né leggere né scrivere, ma il mio primo consiglio sarebbe quello di...

    Your car died on you?
    1. The first thing I would do, I would check the gasoline
    2. If I were you, I would check the gas before calling the tow-truck
    3. Did you check the gas?

    Vediamo se qualcuno puo` suggerire un'espressione idiomatica... ;)

    Please correct my English. Thank you! :)
     
    Last edited: May 16, 2009
  9. underhouse Senior Member

    "....if I ever saw one" is a common English expression.
     
  10. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australia
    Australian English
    "I may not be the world's greatest......................." is another option.

    "I may not be the world's greatest mechanic, but have you thought of checking the gas?"
     
  11. Egisto Senior Member

    Italy
    italian
    I don't know an idiomatic english version, but don't forget that in italian "per non saper né leggere né scrivere" is often ironic or rhetorical. Sometime it isn't a declaration of ignorance. On the contrary, it's rhetorical. Who is using this way, often knows very well the object but he wants to enforce his suggestion; it is as he was saying "I do know exactly what you have to do, but even if I was'nt able to read and to write, I do in this way"...
     
  12. AshleySarah

    AshleySarah Senior Member

    Australia
    English - N.Ireland
    It's quite common to say "Far be it for me to say, but I think it could be just a flat battery".

    OR, very colloquially,
    "Even if I don't know my ass from my elbow, it's worthwhile checking your gas."
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2009
  13. renminds

    renminds Senior Member

    Puglia - Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Thank you xmas50 and Egisto, Italian fellows :), you cleared this thing.
    Egisto you are right about the fact that ignorance is relative so that knowledge comes from experience too.
    As far as native speakers :), thanks for your suggestions, could you please explain me these ones:

    Bye,
    Renminds
     
  14. AshleySarah

    AshleySarah Senior Member

    Australia
    English - N.Ireland
    Here's an explanation:


    far be it from me (to do something)
    it is not really my place to do something. (Always followed by but, as in the example.) Far be it from me to tell you what to do, but I think you should buy the book.
    See also: far
    McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs. © 2002 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.
    far be it from me to do something
    something that you say when you are giving advice or criticizing someone and you want to seem polite Far be it from me to tell you what to do, but don't you think you should apologize?

    Prego!
     
    Last edited: May 17, 2009
  15. ales'ka Senior Member

    naples
    italian
    Does in English exist the expression "non saper né leggere né scrivere"?
    Do you use simply the noun "illiterate"??
    thanks!
     
  16. You little ripper! Senior Member

    Australia
    Australian English
  17. Einstein

    Einstein Senior Member

    Milano, Italia
    UK, English
    You can say
    He's illiterate (and illiterate is an adjective)
    but you can also say
    He can't read or write
    or
    He doesn't know how to read or write
     
  18. Darietta Junior Member

    Cuneo
    Italy Italian
    Illiterate (adj) : A person who can neither read nor write
     
  19. ales'ka Senior Member

    naples
    italian
    Thank you Einstein!
    Excuse me I was wrong....I was thinking about Italian structure, so I said that "illiterate" is a noun. I know that it is an adjective in English.
    :)
     
  20. ales'ka Senior Member

    naples
    italian
    Thanks to all!!!
     
  21. Gianfry

    Gianfry Senior Member

    Brighton, Uk
    Italian
    Riprendo questo vecchio thread perché sollecitato da un altro appena chiuso da paulfromitaly.
    L'espressione è interessante, così come la discussione che ne è scaturita.
    Il mio punto di vista è il seguente:
    per non saper né leggere né scrivere
    equivale a
    per il fatto che non so né leggere né scrivere
    ovvero
    essendo ignorante di questa materia
    Mi sembra che più o meno convergiamo tutti su questa interpretazione.
    Il problema è: cosa accade dopo? Cosa voglio esprimere esattamente?
    Io la metterei così:
    essendo ignorante di questa materia, mi cautelo facendo la cosa più intuitivamente ovvia, in attesa magari di consigli più qualificati.
    Trattandosi di una dichiarazione di ignoranza (che poi, naturalmente, può essere ironica e lasciar intendere che la si sa lunga), in genere il parlante si riferisce a sé stesso.
    Esempio:
    Forse questo reclamo non servirà a niente, però, per non saper né leggere né scrivere, lo mando lo stesso
    oppure
    Visto che mio figlio perdeva molto sangue dalla gamba, per non saper né leggere né scrivere gli ho stretto una cinghia sulla coscia.
     
    Last edited: Mar 1, 2011
  22. Yulan

    Yulan Senior Member

    Lombardia
    Italian
    Ciao Gianfry :)

    Sarà una lettura sbagliata da parte mia, ma intepreto quest'espressione in modo diverso. Mi spiego:

    "Ho confermto verbalmente l'incontro, tuttavia ... per non saper nè leggere nè scrivere, preferisco mandare una e.mail di conferma."

    Ossia: "per non correre rischi", "per maggior sicurezza", "per evitare equivoci".

    L'unica espressione che mi viene in mente per rendere la stessa idea in inglese è, forse, più esplicativa "For the safest ..."

    Ciao :)
     
  23. Gianfry

    Gianfry Senior Member

    Brighton, Uk
    Italian
    Ciao Yu!
    In effetti non stiamo dicendo cose molto diverse.
    Più che altro, ho cercato di risalire alle origini di questa espressione per capire meglio il suo uso corrente e, se ci fai caso, i miei esempi funzionano piuttosto bene con le tue proposte:
    Forse questo reclamo non servirà a niente, però, per maggior sicurezza, lo mando lo stesso
    Visto che mio figlio perdeva molto sangue dalla gamba, per non correre rischi, gli ho stretto una cinghia sulla coscia.
     
  24. Paulfromitaly

    Paulfromitaly MODerator

    Brescia (Italy)
    Italian
    In inglese il concetto è espresso da "Erring on the side of caution".

    Twenty-five people have replied to the invitation, but I've erred on the side of caution and put out 30 chairs.


    Venticinque persone hanno risposto all'invito, ma per non saper né leggere né scrivere ho sistemato 30 sedie.
     
  25. AshleySarah

    AshleySarah Senior Member

    Australia
    English - N.Ireland
    Ciao tutti. :)

    Another common expression is "to be on the safe side".

    Twenty-five people have replied to the invitation, but to be on the safe side I've put out 30 chairs.

    Hope it helps. ;)
     
  26. Yulan

    Yulan Senior Member

    Lombardia
    Italian
    Sì, Gianfry, ciao!

    E' vero che le espressioni sono, per così dire, intercambiabili, ma sorgono da motivazioni concettualmente diverse: un'eventuale "ignoranza in materia" e un "eccesso di zelo".

    Ciao :)
     
  27. Egisto Senior Member

    Italy
    italian
    To be on safe side: in this case, better than "per non saper né leggere né scrivere", in italian you can use "per star sul sicuro"... In any case, "per non saper né leggere né scrivere" it's not confession of real ignorance, but a paradox...
     
  28. pisolo Senior Member

    Italy
    Italian - Italy
    Hello there.

    Here is my try: I am not a rocket scientist but I would have the car battery checked.

    Anche nel senso di "It is better be safe than sorry".

    In italiano si usa in senso ironico come rileva Egisto.
     
    Last edited: Mar 5, 2011
  29. AshleySarah

    AshleySarah Senior Member

    Australia
    English - N.Ireland
    Thank you very much for these explanations Egisto and Pisolo. I think I understand it now.

    E.g. That leather bag they're charging 200 Euros for looks like plastic to me, "but what would I know - I'm only a window cleaner"?

    Would this be a good illustration? :confused:
     
  30. HamletPrinceofDenmark Senior Member

    Italy
    English English
    If you would like like something colloquial and a tiny bit colourful you might like to consider the following alternatives

    a) I might be a bit thick but

    or

    b) I know I'm thick but

    These would be well known to most British speakers of English but I'm not sure if American speakers of English will understand them. Any Americans out there who might wish to comment, please?
     
  31. italtrav

    italtrav Senior Member

    Brooklyn
    English
    Other possibilities come to mind:

    "I'm probably out of my depth here, but ..."
    'Out of my depth' meaning, "in water deeper than is safe for me."

    "This is definitely over my pay grade, but ..."
    "Pay grade" being the salary level applicable to a given job, often referring to military or government pay scales.

    Or more straighforwardly, "I'm just guessing, but ..."
     
  32. CPA Senior Member

    Rome
    British English/Italian biling
    Agree with Egisto. "Per non saper né leggere né scrivere" is often a humorous, self-deprecatory way of saying, "I'm nobody's fool".
     
  33. theartichoke Senior Member

    English -- Canada
    Hello all,

    I've read through this thread and Gianfry's suggestion of above seems closest to the context I'm dealing with, though still not an exact fit. From Ammaniti again, "L"ultimo Capodanno," we have the following:

    Monnezza and his fellow burglars have walked into what they thought was an empty apartment and, much to their astonishment, have found a man tied to a desk being humiliated by a dominatrix (it's important to the context that they do not see her hit him). The dominatrix is now gone, the man is crying loudly in fear, and the other burglars have told Monezza to go and shut him up. Monezza, who has to this point been pocketing the man's office supplies, goes and sees him "che si agitava e urlava e sbatteva le gambe come un bambino a cui devono fare l'inezione," and then we have the following line: "Lo guardò un attimo e senza sapere né leggere né scrivere gli mollò una pizza a mano aperta in faccia producendo un sonoro sciak."

    None of the above explanations about not being an expert and so forth seem to quite fit here: Monnezza is an expert burglar and presumably has experience in slapping people around to make them be quiet. However, what then follows is that Monnezza realizes from the noises the guy makes when he slaps him that he's actually enjoying the pain. He then gives him a second slap, "a scopo scientifico" and confirms his hypothesis.

    What I'd like to know, then, is whether "senza sapere né leggere né scrivere gli mollò una pizza a mano aperta in faccia" can mean "working on a hunch, he slapped him hard in the face"--i.e., whether Monnezza intuits something about the man's kink and therefore slaps him. If not, then I'm at a loss as to what "senza sapere né leggere né scrivere" means in this particular context.
     
  34. Mary49

    Mary49 Senior Member

    Padova
    Italian
    http://www.trapanisiannu.it/s.html "Senza sapìri né lèggiri, né scrìviri! =(Letteralmente: Senza sapere né leggere né scrivere) Fig.: Senza pensarci sopra, senza riflettere, d'impulso = "in a heartbeat" "without thinking twice"
     
  35. theartichoke Senior Member

    English -- Canada
    Thanks, Mary. That certainly makes perfect sense in the context: Monnezza first hits him without thinking about it, because that's what you do to shut someone up; and then he starts thinking about it.

    Is this dialect sense of "senza sapere...etc." widely known in the rest of Italy?
     
  36. Mary49

    Mary49 Senior Member

    Padova
    Italian
    Not in this particular meaning; we use the expression to say "to be on the safe side" "to be cautious".
     
  37. renminds

    renminds Senior Member

    Puglia - Italy
    Italian - Italy
    In my opinion, theartichoke's text confirms what Gianfry and Yulan have already explained and expressions like "erring on the side of caution" (suggested by Paulfromitaly) and "be on the safe side" (suggested by xmas50, AshleySarah) fit perfectly.
    I think we all agree that expression "per non saper né leggere né scrivere" is said to introduce a practical way to deal with a situation, and slapping the tied man is Monnezza's way to shut him up soon, maybe his intention is to make man lose consciousness. A gentleman would say you to stay quiet, a burglar comes and slaps you.
    Likely, the explanation "senza pensarci sopra, senza riflettere, d'impulso" is meant as a "practical way" too.

    Bye,
    Renminds
     
  38. theartichoke Senior Member

    English -- Canada
    I've continued to weigh the two possibilities, as both seem possible in the context:

    "Lo guardò un attimo e senza sapere né leggere né scrivere gli mollò una pizza a mano aperta in faccia producendo un sonoro sciak."
    "He looked at him a moment, and without thinking twice about it, he slapped him hard in the face, producing a sonorous smack."
    "He looked at him a moment, and to be on the safe side, he slapped him hard in the face, producing a sonorous smack."

    The only thing that makes me lean slightly to the first option is that "to be on the safe side" or "erring on the side of caution" would make more sense if it came after Monnezza doing something else, even if it were only to say "shut up."

    And the thing that makes me lean slightly to the second option is that it would be odd for Ammaniti to suddenly use an expression in its Sicilian dialect sense rather than in its normal Italian sense.

    Ultimately, it doesn't make a huge difference, but it's puzzling.
     
  39. Egisto Senior Member

    Italy
    italian
    as I just said in the closed debate, "per non saper né leggere né scrivere" in the average, daily use, is ironic. It doesn't literally refer to real ignorance but to supposed, theoretical ignorance. It's a paradox. Normally one uses "per non saper né leggere né scrivere" as a paradox. I'm able to read and write but, taking it to the extreme, if I'm not able to read and write, to be safe, I do something and so on.... Another and completely different way to say the same thing is "per star sul sicuro..." or "per star dalla parte del giusto....".. "a scanso di equivoci..." ...
     
  40. Connie Eyeland

    Connie Eyeland Senior Member

    Brescia (Italia)
    Italiano
    ..."[tanto/giusto] per non sbagliare".
     
  41. Egisto Senior Member

    Italy
    italian
    right! It's another way to say the same idea
     
  42. Connie Eyeland

    Connie Eyeland Senior Member

    Brescia (Italia)
    Italiano
    Quindi nel contesto di TheArtichoke, non potrebbe essere "Just to make it right" ?
     
  43. Egisto Senior Member

    Italy
    italian
    Not properly, on my opinion... It's more like a shortcut... Just to be safe, even if there could be other solutions..., just to face the problem in a hurry.... But, we're really trying to "spaccare il capello in quattro" or searching "il pelo nell'uovo"... That's to say we're really exaggerating
    in the hunt for the most refined meaning..
     
  44. GavinW Senior Member

    Italy
    British English
    I think it's now clear that the expression can have specific different meanings (or usages), depending on context. I count three different (and separable) usages/meanings. Of these, the usage cited in post 33 (the passage from artichoke's novel/fiction) seemed to me the most marginal (less "central"), and also the less "specific". However, the figurative definition in the Trapani usage (post 34) ("on an impulse", or, perhaps equally, "for no particular reason") is completely convincing, and satisfactorily specific (ie different from the other meanings that we know). Problem solved, I'd say (as long as we keep them all separate).
     
    Last edited: Feb 9, 2013
  45. Connie Eyeland

    Connie Eyeland Senior Member

    Brescia (Italia)
    Italiano
    Hi, Gavin.

    The meaning explained in post #34 is the most convincing, I agree, and the one which best suits the English text, but have you read TheArtichoke's doubt (post #38)?
    Ammaniti is not Sicilian and it would be actually strange for a non-Sicilian to use an idiomatic expression in its Sicilian meaning rather than its Italian one...
    Therefore, if we agree to put aside the Sicilian meaning, the "tanto per non sbagliare"/"just to be safe"* interpretation remains the only possible one.

    *(or similar expressions conveying the same idea)
     
  46. joanvillafane Senior Member

    U.S., New Jersey
    U.S. English
    Wow! What an interesting thread. I've just thought of an English expression which has not been mentioned and which I think is equivalent to many of the translations here (but which I don't think fits the artichoke's context):
    without knowing any better,
    In the case of the car battery: Without knowing any better, I'd say you need a new battery.
     
  47. Connie Eyeland

    Connie Eyeland Senior Member

    Brescia (Italia)
    Italiano
    Bella, Joan!:) E va benissimo in molti contesti che in italiano contengono il modo di dire in questione (ma effettivamente non tanto in quello specifico di TheArtichcoke, come tu stessa hai già inteso).
     

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