12 January 2009

Italian lesson: Fai la brava!

This past weekend I was doing my errands – buying postage stamps, visiting my calzolaio (cobbler), picking up some groceries. Energy flagging, I dropped in at La Cantina for a brief rest and a prosecco. I like the spirit at La Cantina. The staff certainly doesn’t fawn over anyone, but show up twice and they’ll act like you belong there, maybe even remember what you drink.

As I buttoned up my coat to leave, the mischievous redheaded barman and I exchanged our regular Ciao, ciao! good-byes. Then he smiled broadly, saluted me, and said, “Fai la brava!”

Fai la brava? I had never heard this. I tumbled it through my mind – not terribly complex Italian, after all.

Fai – that’s the informal command for “Do ---!” or “Make ---!” Bravo or brava – that’s not “brave,” but rather “good” or “clever” or “Well done!” So… “Do well”? “Make the good thing”? Or maybe “Make like you’re clever”? No, not quite right.

Then I got it. Literally it’s “Do the good!” In essence it’s “Fight the good fight!” Or perhaps, "Behave yourself!" Or, as I like to say, “Onward and upward!” I announced my translation to the barman and he responded, “Brava!”

Can’t tell you how tickled I was to learn this handy, upbeat phrase – if for nothing else than a useful personal reminder.