I'm trying to translate the lyrics of an old Italian song and I got stuck with a phrase. What I've found with the help of dictionaries simply doesn't make sense and I wonder if it has been used metaphorically or, perhaps, if it's a set phrase or idiom.

"Da quando il vento mi ha sussurrato

Che lei vai in giro col carro armato,

Da quando ho visto che fa l'indiana,

Ho perduto la tramontana,

L'ho perduta seguendo lei.

My doubt is "fa l'indiana". All Italian-English dictionaries I've found, translate "fa l'indiana" as "fa = make" and "l'indiana" as "the indian".

  • I'm voting to close this question as off-topic for the reasons the OP himself gives, more or less. “Carro armato” or “carrarmato” is answered by simply consulting a dictionary (as given in the question); the other is more interesting, but deserves a question in itself. Maybe omit the “carro armato” thing?
    – DaG
    Sep 22, 2016 at 19:26
  • @DaG If "carro armato" or "carrarmato" means what the dictionaries say it does, a tank, it makes no sense. That's why I'm asking whether that use of the phrase is metaphorical or idiomatic.
    – Centaurus
    Sep 22, 2016 at 19:31
  • 1
    We should ask the author of the lyrics: it is just a surreal, hyperbolic image (perhaps to suggest a very strong-headed, unreachable woman), but it is no idiom. Your guess is as good as mine.
    – DaG
    Sep 22, 2016 at 19:37
  • The meaning of "fare l'Indiana" is the only sensible question you might ask.
    – user519
    Sep 22, 2016 at 19:39
  • @DaG Yes, sometimes even a native speaker can't tell what lurks in the mind of an author. Thanks anyway. I'm going to remove the "carroarmato" thing.
    – Centaurus
    Sep 22, 2016 at 19:40

1 Answer 1


The literal meaning of the phrase fa l'indiana (more commonly in the masculine form, fa l'indiano) is “he/she does the Indian”, or “behaves like an Indian”, with the meaning of feigning not to understand what one is told, not to be interested, not to notice things, but being actually aware of everything; partially, something like “to turn a deaf ear”. Or, as Tommaseo wrote,

Far l'indiano, Fingere di non ne sapere, o Affettare fuor di proposito maraviglia; com'uomo estraneo che vien di lontano.

It is a quite old phrase, used at least by Manzoni:

era stato, facendo l’indiano, sulla porta del suo padrone, per veder quando Lucia usciva dal monastero

and again

Ho già visto certi visi, certi galantuomini che giran, facendo l'indiano, e notano chi c'è e chi non c'è: quando poi tutto è finito, si raccolgono i conti, e a chi tocca, tocca.

Apparently, it refers to Native Americans, who were supposed to have such an attitude when confronting Europeans: «Il detto risale ai tempi della colonizzazione americana, quando i Pellerossa non comprendevano il linguaggio dei bianchi» (Hoepli Dizionario dei modi di dire).

  • Something like "to play dumb" ?
    – Centaurus
    Sep 22, 2016 at 20:14
  • 1
    I suppose not. I see, to pretend no to see or be aware.
    – Centaurus
    Sep 22, 2016 at 20:16
  • 1
    @Centaurus - collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/italian-english/fare-l-indiano
    – user519
    Sep 22, 2016 at 20:41
  • 1
    Thanks a lot. Any reference to back up this possible "native american" connection ?
    – Centaurus
    Sep 22, 2016 at 21:36
  • humm, I searched for "fa l'indiano" while I should have looked for "fare l'indiano".
    – Centaurus
    Sep 22, 2016 at 21:39

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

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