In trying to exactly capture the meaning of the following passage, I struggle to choose the correct words and have doubts remaining:

E se io fossi vago (il che non è), di introdurre in Italia il capitalismo di Stato o il socialismo di Stato, che è il rovescio della medaglia, io avrei oggi le condizioni necessarie sufficienti e obiettive per farlo.
–– Benito Mussolini: "La situazione economica dell'Italia – Discorso Pronunciato Alla Camera – Il 26 Maggio 1934 XII" Direzione del Partito Nazionale Fascista, 1934. Slightly more context online here.

The usage of vago seems weird to me.

vago m sing

  1. incerto, indeterminato oppure non definito vago cenno
  2. (letteratura) dicesi di cosa o persona errante, vagante o che si muove liberamente Nocchiero vago per l'onde come smergo ombroso. (Pascoli)
  3. (letteratura) attraente, desideroso, dolce, leggiadro, Chi della gloria è vago sol di virtù sia pago. (Parini)

Google would like to translate this as a quite weird construction:

And if I were vague (which it is not) of introducing…

The passage in question is already distorted/translated in a book:

And if I dare to introduce to Italy state capitalism or state socialism, which is the reverse side of the medal, I will have the necessary subjective and objective conditions to do it.
–– Benito Mussolini, quoted in The Oxford Handbook of the Italian Economy Since Unification, by Gianni Toniolo, editor, Oxford University Press (2013) p. 59. Mussolini’s speech to the Chamber of Deputies on May 26, 1934.

Currently, I opted to translate that as

And if I were in the mood (which is not the case), to introduce…

But that seems equally a little bit too freely translated in word choices. In short I am just unfamiliar with it and can't find a definitive explanation for this. Is this some kind of idiomatic expression, or might the author be expressing himself just a bit weirdly?

How is that construction with vago supposed to work exactly?

  • 3
    Welcome to Italian.SE!
    – Charo
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 14:07
  • “In the mood” is quite off the mark (suggesting something more colloquial and light-hearted than the original) but only in its register, while the Oxford Handbook translation seems to misunderstand the very meaning. Mussolini says, more or less, “If I just wanted to, I'd do so and so”, so “daring” has nothing to do with it; he would certainly not admit he wouldn't have the courage to do something...
    – DaG
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 18:39
  • @DaG Thx. That's exactly the kind of info I was looking for. Only that I understood the sentence as quite off the earnest register indeed. Like him making at least a half-joke about that (made clear by the parentheses?). But it seems to me that the handbook is really strange in choosing to omit the brackets and 'to dare'. Looked to me that 'dare' might work as jocular hyperbole? Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 19:59
  • Mussolini was not the type to make jokes, half or not, as I understand him (not that this was his worst defect), so I interpret the sentence as saying exactly that he had the power to do as he desired.
    – DaG
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 20:15

1 Answer 1


In this case, the meaning of vago is the third in the dictionary you looked up: it works as a synonym of desideroso. It is a fairly archaic usage, but I think at the time it was more current (it is very common to find it in texts from the nineteenth century, and one imagines that in 1934 it did not sound as archaic as it does today).

For example the verse by Parini cited in the question Chi della gloria è vago sol di virtù sia pago can be translated as Let him, who is desirous for glory, be satisfied only by virtue.

So if you want to translate it as literally as possible we could say:

And if I had the desire (which I don't) to introduce in Italy state capitalism or state socialism, which is the other face of the same coin, I would have today necessary, sufficient and objective conditions to do so.

Maybe a different translation, trying to preserve the feeling (but I'm not a native English speaker, so be gentle with the corrections ;))

And were I fain (that which isn't) to introduce in Italy state capitalism or state socialism, which is the other face of the same coin, etc.

In any case, there's no humorous connotation whatsoever.

  • 3
    Invaghire and invaghirsi have the same root (vago) Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 14:37
  • @RiccardoDeContardi Good point!
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 14:37
  • Many thx. Would you say that this might be archaic and a bit humorous or that the other meanings might get into understanding it as connotations? (After all, the editors for the Oxford handbook have names that sound native Itslian speaker enough to make me wonder why they'd choose 'dare'). Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 20:03
  • 2
    @LangLangC I don't think it's humorous at all. It definitely sounds archaic today, but I'm not sure it sounded archaic at the time (it was, after all, one century ago!), and anyway Fascists would have used older words for ideological reasons (connections with the glorious past etc.). In fact if anything it sounds fancier than using a more common word.
    – Denis Nardin
    Commented Oct 19, 2019 at 20:09

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