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La Pancia, Great and Small

Just as in English where we don’t always distinguish between "belly" and "stomach" in speech, Italian also has an informal way of talking about the abdomen (addome or ventre) and the digestive apparatus.


There’s lo stomaco (the stomach) and l’intestino (the intestines) but Italian commonly uses the word pancia (belly, tummy) for both. An easy cognate for pancia is “paunch,” which should help to remember it!


This episode about Dixi is generously sprinkled with the the diminutive of panciapancino, so let’s take a closer look.


Pancino is an example of an altered word*, in this case, a diminutive of pancia. It is used in the masculine in the examples below, because Dixi is a male elefantino, but it can also be used just as well in the feminine: pancina.


Since his stomach is growling, Dixi treats it as another living being who happens to have a sweet tooth just like Dixi himself. In Italian a stomach doesn’t exactly growl, but rather grumbles or nags (brontolare).


Che da vuoto quel pancino brontolava un sacco.

Which, being empty, that little tummy growled a lot.

Caption 15, Dixiland - La voce del pancino

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When we’ve eaten enough we have la pancia piena (a full stomach), and if we've eaten too much we have la pancia strapiena (full to bursting):


E col pancino pieno di dolcetti,

And with the tummy full of sweets,

Dixi si lanciò nelle danze.

Dixi threw himself into dancing.

Captions 28-29, Dixiland - La voce del pancino

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When referring to the corresponding part of a pig, it’s called pancetta (bacon).


Un piatto romano, un bel bucatino all'amatriciana

A Roman dish, a nice "bucatino all'amatriciana" [thick hollow pasta]

co' [con] pomodoro, pecorino e pancetta.

with tomato sauce, sheep cheese and bacon.

Captions 3-4, Anna e Marika - Un Ristorante a Trastevere

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We might also use the diminutive pancetta affectionately rather than calling someone fat:

Ha un po’ di pancetta.
He’s got some baby fat.


Someone who has a big belly, or a very pregnant woman, on the other hand, will have un pancione.


If you ate too much you might have mal di pancia (a stomach ache, a tummy ache).


Italians use the belly to indicate how to lie down:


pancia in giù (lying face down)
pancia in sù (lying face up)



*For more about parole alterate (altered words), see the Yabla video Marika spiega - Le parole alterate and the Yabla lesson Parole Alterate - Modifying Words to Create New Ones


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