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Italian Idioms starting with M

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Mandare da Erode a Pilato (= send from Herod to Pilate (send a problem to another person)
Send a person who has a problem to be solved from one authority to another, from one place to another, causing him to waste time in useless research or meetings. It is used today to describe the methods of the bureaucracy and the like. It also has the meaning of avoiding a responsibility inviting someone to turn to others. The story involved here is that of Herod Antipas, the Tetrarch of Galilee in the days of Jesus. According to the Gospel of Matthew (XXVII, 24), when it came to deciding the fate of Jesus , Herod tried to entrust the case to the Roman procurator of Judea, Pontius Pilate, who sent Jesus back again to Herod.

Mangiare a quattro palmenti (= eat like a mill's grindstone (with great voracity)
A "palmento" was originally the millstone by which grains of wheat were reduced to finer fragments, that is one of the basic elements of a water mill. Easy to imagine the four hyperbolic millstones compared to human jaws, as unstoppable food grinders.

Mangiare la foglia (= eat the leaf)
The expression, an equivalent to "being shrewd" is used to emphasize how much a person can grasp the meaning of a sentence, or a speech, and get to understand what is not said. Its origin is in the Odyssey: Odysseus was a prisoner on the island of sorceress Circe, and realized the trick of the witch in turning men into beasts. The god Hermes had given him a leaf to eat that was to protect him from magic. Others say that the fact that it refers to the habit of silkworms to taste the leaves to check the edibility.

Menare il can per l'aia (= let the dog walk in the farmyard)
An equivalent to "beat around the bush" the expression means bringing things on for too long, take time so not to finish anything. The farmyard indeed is a space too narrow to walk around a hunting dog that wants more space.

Mettere alla berlina (= put on the pillory)
The expression comes from an ancient punishment, which consisted in exposing the offender to insults of passers-by: the offender was on his knees, chained, and his head and his hands tucked into a wooden board with holes (which was called "berlina").

Mettere i puntini sulle i (= put the dots on the i's)
The expression, which means to be very precise, unnecessary fussy, dates back to the invention of printing. Initially the letter "i" had no dot, but might easily be confused with other letters; to distinguish it, the dot was added.

Mosca bianca (= a white fly)
A person or an object with special characteristics compared to his peers, making it an extremely rare case. Common flies are black or dark in color, and to see a white one would be an extraordinary event.