19

I am interested to know what is the origin of the famous proverb:

Tanto va la gatta al lardo, che ci lascia lo zampino

I realize the figurative meaning (same as "curiosity killed the cat"), but is it known where the Italian form of the proverb was first used or what is the context of it?

  • 2
    Oh, c'mon: it.wikipedia.org/wiki/… :) As for tracing the origins, it's not always easy with these popular sayings - they often don't have a clear and documented origin – Damien Pirsy Nov 5 '13 at 20:52
  • There's no citation for that... – Sklivvz Nov 5 '13 at 20:54
  • I agree with Damien, some sayings often don't have a documented origin, and, if Wikipedia doesn't say anything about, I think we should deduce that the origin is unknown. – Kyriakos Kyritsis Nov 5 '13 at 21:03
  • 3
    That's not actually true, otherwise (if we could rely on Wikipedia foe everything) we wouldn't have thought about opening this site here. I love Wikipedia, but there may be more precise and accurate sources for language information and the goal of this site is building a comprehensive set of answers, using them and our own knowledge. – martina Nov 6 '13 at 8:55
  • 3
    This question appears to be off-topic because it is general reference. – Kyriakos Kyritsis Nov 6 '13 at 13:29
5

According to Wikipedia, this proverb origins from the lardo being cut on cutting board using a sharp knife, such as the mezzaluna. A cat trying to steal the lardo while being cut, would eventually lead to the amputation of its paw.

As you rightfully suggested, the closest equivalent in English would be

Curiosity killed the cat

but a translation preserving the original meaning could be

Gluttony amputated the cat

| improve this answer | |
  • Agree on the meaning of the proverb, pointing out that the origin of the amputation is also commonly referred to be a mouse trap. – Oddlygeek Nov 6 '13 at 5:04
  • 1
    I disagree with the first translation, "Curiosity killed the cat" has its own translation in Italian. It has something to do with naive curiosity, which can lead one into a dangerous situation. The original proverb, instead, involves (as you correctly pointed out in the second attempt) gluttony, and some kind of concrete reward for which the cat is looking. – astabada Nov 6 '13 at 10:55
  • Because the cat is doing something he's not supposed to do (stealing lard), the meaning of the proverb is that, if you do something wrong, sooner or later you'll pay the price. – astabada Nov 6 '13 at 10:56
  • @odd Wait, why would lard be put on a mousetrap to catch a cat? It doesn't make any sense! – Sklivvz Nov 9 '13 at 21:58
  • I partly disagree with the proposed meaning, in my opinion the meaning is that a reiterated bad action surely has bad consequences ("tanto va la gatta al lardo" means IMO "the more and more the cat approaches the lard") then "ci lascia lo zampino" (sooner or later it will lost the paw) - implicitly it means also that it is a bad idea to ignore signs of danger. – Riccardo De Contardi Feb 7 at 8:26

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.