{Fiorentino} O’ a icche’ tu pensi, ai quattrini di’sale?

This is a funny expression in fiorentino which is trying to wake up someone lost in thought, fixing one spot. As it sometimes happens.

In translation that would mean:  Eh, what are you thinking about, the salt money? The question is, what role does the salt play here? The book gives us a rather long explanation which I will condense.

First stop – The Romans used to say: “Multos modius salis simul edendos esse, ut amicitiae munus expretum sit”  meaning :one has to eat many measures of salt  together before knowing a person well. Modius = moggi=  measures of salt. During the Roman times the modius was the main measurement of the dry stuff, equal to about 10 litres. It was used to measure the grain mostly, the wheat, after harvesting and cutting it of the stem.

Slaves in a Roman salt mine

Second stop: but the salt is not commestible per se, so that simul edendos esse has a metaphorical meaning, that is, it is referring to the work, the effort, the toil one has to go through until a valuable result is reached. Until today the Italians talk about salty prices  ( prezzi salati), salty fee (multa salata). There is also a Dantesque expression : come sa di sale la pane altrui =  how salty the bread of others tastes.


Third stop: in time, the salt took the role of what we are now using money for. For exchange. We exchange money for something else. Salt was used instead. After that, it lost value and it became the product we know today, cheap and easy to find.

Forth stop: arriving at the salt  referenced above in the expression  the salt money.  We are now located at the dawn of an Italian Kingdom having financial issues. A law was imposed, the so called  ” policy of sparing”,  when not only the rich, the welldoing people had to pay taxes but also the penniless unskilled workers, the unemployed, those doing  12 and even 14 hours of work a day, had to put up with an exorbitant tax for the salt. This law made the already difficult life of the workers unbearable. That is where the expression comes from, someone daydreaming about all the money going out for salt, with a steady gaze.

That was cool to find out!

A Romanian alternative would be:  Ehi! Trezeste-te, te gîndești la cai verzi pe pereți? Which means thinking about green horses on the walls. I wonder, where did that come from ?! Green Horses?!

Until next time, let’s appreciate what we have, as much or as little. There were times when salt was luxurious. We need simple things, like some salt daily, to function normally.

We need gratitude to appreciate these simple things.




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