Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

Talking pumpkin heads

Talking pumpkin heads
It may seem an unlikely source of literary inspiration, but believe it or not the pumpkin pops up in several well-known Italian idioms. The most famous saying is ‘avere poco sale in zucca’ – meaning, to have a little salt in the pumpkin.

Everyone knows pumpkins taste better with salt, so the saying  ‘they have a little salt in their pumpkin’ means someone is intelligent, to have 'no salt in their pumpkin' suggests they are stupid. There's an added dimension to the saying too, as pumpkins used to be hollowed out, dried and used as salt shakers. Salt in the pumpkin therefore, is the result of being smart and resourceful. 

Perhaps most obviously of all is the connection of pumpkins to the human head. Whether the head of a scarecrow, or a Jack-O-Lantern, pumpkins make great imitations, so it stands to reason that some expressions link them even more directly. To be a ‘zuccone’ is to be a ‘pumpkin-head’ or be bald – much like the artist Donatello’s classic sculpture by the same name, which many people say looks uncannily like Harry Potter’s Lord Voldemort.