Italian Idioms starting with C
Idioms Ordered Alphabetically
Sections on Learning Italian
Capire l'antifona (= understand the hidden meaning)
Carte quarantotto (= 48 charters, a disaster)
Cercare col lanternino (= Look for something with a small lantern)
Chi ha fatto trenta può fare trentuno (= Once you made 30 you can make 31)
Cornuto (= with horns, betrayed by one's spouse)
An interesting theory goes back to ancient Greek myth of Minos. Minos had two brothers, Rhadamanthus and Sarpedon, with whom he ruled over Crete; but he wanted all the power for himself, and of course his two brothers hindered him. So Minos said that the gods had intended only him to be king, and to prove it, he added that whatever he asked the gods would be granted. He prayed Poseidon to let a bull come from the sea, promising in return to sacrifice in his honor the bull itself. Poseidon sent a magnificent white bull, which swam to the shore, and Minos obtained absolute power.
However, he did not sacrifice the beautiful white bull, as agreed with Poseidon, but another bull of less value. Irritated, Poseidon punished Minos inspiring in Pasiphae, the king's wife, an irresistible passion for the white bull. Not knowing how to satisfy her passion, Pasiphae sought advice from Daedalus, who built a wooden heifer where Pasiphae would be comfortably introduced in the best position to make love with the bull. Daedalus then took the woman to the place where the bull was grazing; the animal, without realizing that the heifer was a fake, mounted her.
Pasiphae, contrary to what simple anatomy could suggest, not only survived the coupling but also got pregnant, and survived as well the birth of her offspring, with a human body and a bull's head, which was called the Minotaur. The Minotaur's horns were a proof of Minos punishment, since everybody could see he had been betrayed by his wife.
Another possible origin is to be found in Constantinople, at the time of the Emperor Andronicus Comnenus, between 1120 and 1185. It is said that he was a womanizer of the time, and to celebrate each new conquest used to hang in the busiest spots of the capital the heads of the deer he killed in hunting, a head for every seduced woman (and betrayed husband).
Still another theory derives the "cornuto" expression from the unhappy situation of the billygoat (becco, in Italian). Its female companions are known to change partners with the utmost ease, which also gave rise to the (more uncommon) expression "far becco" which means to betray.