Expressions of the 1930s
Under Fascism, this was the name given to boys aged 14 to 18 (17 after 1943) who were enrolled in the youth organisation, called the Opera Nazionale Balilla (National Balilla Organisation) until 1937, when it was absorbed by the Gioventù Italiana del Littorio (Italian Fascist Youth).
Amba Aradam is a massif in Ethiopia near which the Italians and Abyssinians fought a battle in 1936. Some of the local tribes kept changing sides (allied at times with the Italians, at others with the Abyssinians). When the Italians returned home, they began to call chaotic situations “a replay of Amba Aradam”, which soon became “what an Amba Aradam!” The two words later merged into one.
Nickname of the boy who sparked off the rebellion that hounded the Austrians out of Genoa in 1746. The Fascist regime took the name of this exemplary patriot for its Opera Nazionale Balilla (National Balilla Organisation), a youth organisation for boys aged 8 to 14 founded in 1926. On turning 11, you graduated to the rank of Balilla moschettiere (Balilla musketeer).
He who hesitates is lost
Mussolini, Genoa, 14 May 1938.
Take up horse-riding instead
Remark made to people considered incapable of performing a given task. In 1931, Fascist hierarch Achille Starace showed up an hour late for a medical conference. His excuse to the furious medics was that he couldn’t do without his daily horse ride; in fact he even urged his audience to adopt a less intellectual and more “Fascist” life style.
The plough may make the furrow, but the sword defends it!
Mussolini, from his inaugural address to mark the founding of the Province of Littoria (now Latina) on 18 December 1934.
Eja, Eja, Alalà!
War cry coined by Gabriele D’Annunzio in 1918 as an alternative to the foreign-sounding “hip, hip, hurrah!” It was subsequently adopted by Fascism.
Gioventù Italiana del Littorio (G.I.L.) [Italian Fascist Youth]
Young Fascist organisation formed on 29 October 1937 to boost young Italians’ spiritual, military and sports training in accordance with the Fascist regime’s ideological principles. It absorbed the National Balilla Organisation.
Figlio e Figlia della Lupa [Son and Daughter of the She-Wolf]
After 1933, anyone starting elementary school automatically became a member of this organisation for children aged 6 to 7. The boys’ uniforms, designed by painter Mario Pompei, consisted of a black woollen fez, a black shirt with a white holster belt that held the trouser braces, and grey-green trousers.
Giovane Italiana [Young Italian Woman]
Young Fascist girls aged 14 to 18, whose uniform consisted of a white blouse and black skirt.
Libro e moschetto / Fascista perfetto [Book and musket / perfect Fascist]
Coined by Mussolini.
Marciare per non marcire [March, and you won’t rot]
Possibly coined by Filippo Tommaso Marinetti during World War I, it was later revived by the Fasci di Combattimento [Italian Combatant Leagues.
Ministry of Popular Culture, set up on 22 May 1937 to supervise and organise Fascist propaganda.
Me ne frego [I couldn’t give a damn]
Attributed to Gabriele D’Annunzio and used during World War I, it comes from the words that a wounded soldier had written on his bandages as a mark of his sacrifice for the mother country. It was revived by Fascism.
Noi tireremo dritto [We shall forge ahead]
Mussolini, Roma, Palazzo Venezia, 8 September 1935.
Dark woollen cloth (put through the fulling mill, a process that turned it into rainproof felt) used for the uniforms of the “Milizia Volontaria per la Sicurezza Nazionale” [“Volunteer Militia for National Security”] (the so-called “Black Shirts”) and of the youth organisations. Its use became so widespread during the Fascist self-sufficiency drive that, even taken out of context, the term itself now conjures up the flavour of an era and an ideology.
Piccola italiana [Little Italian]
Young Fascist girls aged 9 to 13.
A nickname for England dating back to the 17th century and revived by Mussolini.
Popolo dai cinque pasti [Five-meal-a-day nation]
Refers to the British. Mussolini used the expression for the first time on 9 October 1919.
Established by Mussolini in 1935, before which date Saturday had been a full working day. Under the new law, work stopped at 1 o’clock and the afternoon was given over to paramilitary activities and gymnastics.
The Min.Cul.Pop. [see above] had to check all published work, issuing “printing orders” which were typewritten on flimsy ‘onionskin’ tissue paper.
Vincere, e vinceremo [We must win! And we will win!]
Mussolini, declaring war on 10 June 1940.