“Mangia vete”

This is an Italian phrase that was used in RG’s family. However, RG does not speak Italian and only knew how to say it, not spell it. The second word of the phrase sounds like “vete”, but that is not an actual Italian word so it is most likely spelled a different way.

What does the phrase mean?

RG: My dad used to say it as something like “feed your face”. It was something he said when we were kids.

Did your dad speak Italian?

RG: “No, my grandfather was an Italian immigrant, but he didn’t want his kids to speak Italian. He said they were Americans, not Italians. Americans speak english. My dad still used some of the words and phrases though.

When would your dad use the phrase?

RG: “It was an expression for “it’s time for dinner”. It would be like “Bobby mangia fete”, “Bobby, come on feed your face”

This was a good example of how folklore is spread via word of mouth. RG had never even seen the phrase written out so he didn’t even know how to spell it. It also demonstrates how someones interpretation of  folklore is more important than what it actual means. “Mangia vete” itself doesn’t mean anything when it is spelled out. However, when it is used in the context of RG’s family, it is clear to all of them that it means “feed your face” or “it’s time to eat”.

I also found it interesting that it was an Italian phrase used by people who did not speak Italian. Although RG’s grandfather did not want his children to speak Italian because they were “Americans, not Italians”, slang from the Italian culture still became a part of their family that was passed down. Despite his grandfather’s best efforts, his family was American with a definite Italian influence. The fact that his grandfather wanted his children to be known as “Americans” is, I believe, a direct result of his being an Italian immigrant. He did not want his children to be treated any different than other American children, but at the same time the part of his Italian culture was inevitably expressed because that was what he grew up with. It’s a nice example of the blending of cultures to the point where eventually Italian phrases are used by English speakers who do not completely understand what they are saying, but they know the context of when to say it.