Lingo |Grazie Mille

Sometimes a thank you isn’t enough. In the United States we don’t thank people once we thank them a million times. Thanks a million is considered greater than a single thank you which is the bare minimum by politeness standards.

When I got to Italy I noticed Italians don’t thank each other a million times. Instead they say grazie mille or thanks a thousand. For over a decade I assumed Italians weren’t buying into super size culture and preferred a number they could comprehend yet was impressive enough to demonstrate significant gratitude.

I was wrong. Grazie mille has nothing to do with modesty and everything to do with Garibaldi. Italy’s founding father famously united the country in 1860 with the help of a rough and tumble force of volunteers known as the thousand or mille. Whether they actually numbered a thousand is hearsay; the name stuck and Garibaldi and Italians up and down the peninsula regularly thanked the patriots (grazie alle mille) during speeches and toasts. The alle preposition/article disappeared over the decades and Italians were left with grazie mille (thanks a thousand).

The cornerstone of Italian etiquette has nothing to do with magnanimity. It is instead the result of a forgotten tribute to the men who established the Italian Republic and who are unconsciously honored every time someone utters the phrase: grazie mille.


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