Living in Italy has added a brand spanking new phrase to my repertoire: buon lavoro. And the reason why I say brand spanking new is because I don’t think I have ever expressed the intention behind buon lavoro in my mother tongue. Sure you can say “have a good day at work” or something along those lines, but that’s not as efficient as two concise words or four snappy syllables. In both English and Italian, you can wish someone good day (buongiorno), good evening (buona sera), good night (buona notte) or even happy birthday (buon compleanno), but to the extent of my knowledge–and I stress “to the extent of my knowledge” because I’m well aware I could be wrong,–there’s no fitting English equivalent to buon lavoro. Sure, I might have wished someone a genuine “Happy Friday” or a facetious “Happy Monday or a jesting “happy folding” to a friend tied up with laundry; “Have a nice day” might be the closest to “happy work” or “good work” that I have ever wished anyone. I might have complimented someone along the lines of the latter, but it was never in the context of an intention. Perhaps good luck (buona fortuna) could suffice in a certain context as well?
Buon lavoro and I first became acquainted at the start of an English lesson that I was teaching to two brothers; their nonna said it to me and I thought she kind of intended to come across as tongue-in-cheek as seven- and nine-year-old boys don’t exactly cultivate angelic reputations, so I didn’t think much of it. But soon enough I began to notice a chorus of buon lavoro’s left and right–Facebook, Twitter, emails, the street, the train station—and I realized buon lavoro was just as colloquial as ciao.
Nowadays, I’m at both the receiving and giving ends of a multitude of buon lavoro exchanges with pretty much anyone I encounter….friends, colleagues, strangers, whomever! And I enjoy it very much as with each, I feel that much more adjusted to this chaotic country that I adore with every ounce of my being.
So on that note, I wish you all buon lavoro!