Blog

#CuriousIT – The full barrel and the drunk wife

Once, in the Italian culture (but not only) there was a popular stereotype: women were gadfly, especially wifes. Men on the other hand were rational but struggled to be faithful to their wifes.
Today this and other stereotypes are questioned, as society has moved on (uhm well, sort of), but we can find traces of this old ideas in the current Italian language.

We could do many examples, but we chose just this one idiom: “Non puoi avere la botte piena e la moglie ubriaca” – “You can’t have the full barrel and the drunk wife”.
The general meaning is “you can’t have it all – you have to make choices in your life, and often one excludes the other”.

The idiom refers to a barrel of liquor/beer: the “ideal” situation for a men was to be able to drink from the barrel without having his wife around (because she was drunk). But she couldn’t be drunk if she hadn’t drunk from the barrel. So you have to choose if you prefer drinking or having a drunk wife.

If you think that this idiom could be offensive, you may have a point.
Some other countries have this same idiom but with different subjects:
– in English and Greek is “you can’t have your cake and eat it too
– in French is “You can’t have butter and the money for butter
– in German is “You can’t dance at two different weddings simultaneously“.

No one in Italy usually takes offence though for this idiom, because irony and jousting are quite common.
And after all, who wouldn’t complain playfully of their partner?
Italians also say: l’amore è bello se non è litigarello – Love is beautyfull only if contentious!