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Promoted from a comment on yesterday's post "How Mubarak was told to go, in many languages", this is a protest sign from Italy showing Silvio Berlusconi getting the iconic Italian boot:

That's a screen capture from this video:

I believe that this involves a form of sbarcare "to disembark", preceded by the regional mo "now".

In more standard spelling it would be something like "Mo' sbarca", with the final '-a' in "sbarca" subject to the apocope that affects some final vowels in some varieties of Italian. As far as I know, the epenthetic 'a' between the 'r' and the 'k' is there purely in service of the witticism — though it would be even wittier if this were in fact an appropriate form of eye-dialect for some kinds of colloquial Italian.

(Those who actually know Italian are invited to correct or extend this analysis…)

Update: as several commenters have pointed out, I was wrong. The verb is apparently sbarracare "clear out", and so the imperative in conventional spelling would be "sbarraca". The final -a is subject to apocope, as I said –and both of the a's in the sign belong there!

Courtesy of Fabio M. in the comments,  the same slogan with a different image from a protest in Bari:

[And just in case you're wondering why Italians are waving signs about their prime minister…]


  1. .mau. said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 10:39 am

    hi Mark,
    actually the Italian verb is "sbaraccare", to clear away (no relation with "barrack", by the way)

    [(myl) Thanks! But on the relation to barrack, for that word the OED gives the etymology

    Etymology: < French baraque, < Italian baracca or Spanish barraca ‘a souldier's tent, or a booth, or such like thing made of the sayle of a shippe, or such like stuffe’ (Minsheu 1617). Of uncertain origin: Diez thinks < barra bar, comparing, for the form, trab-acca < trab-s beam. Others have tried to find an Arabic or Celtic source. Marsh has shown that the word occurs early in Spanish and Catalan.

    Assuming (as seems plausible and as other commenters suggest) that sbaraccare is related to baracca via the negative prefix s-, then sbaraccare and barrack are at least cousins.]

  2. Daniele A. Gewurz said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 10:45 am

    @.mau.: Yes, but apparently both "sbaraccare" and "barracks" derive from "baracca" (which in modern Italian means "hut").

    (And, Mark, it's Berlusconi, not Burlusconi.)

    [(myl) I knew that! But as I've often admitted, I'm a sloppy typist and a terrible proofreader.]

  3. Giovanni said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 10:47 am

    Mau, you are correct of course that the verb is sbaraccare. But I would say that it is very directly related to barrack, in fact one of the meanings is to dismantle a military camp.
    Maybe you meant to say that it's unrelated to Barack!

  4. .mau. said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 10:51 am

    I thought so, but at least Hazon-Garzanti warns about the false friend. After all, a favela is a bunch of baracche, and you wouldn't say it's a bunch of barracks :-)

  5. Licia said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 10:56 am

    Although mo is usually marked as "central/southern Italian", when I saw the sign I immediately thought it must have been written by somebody in Emilia-Romagna, which was confirmed by watching the video (shot in Bologna), but I am afraid I cannot pinpoint exactly why!

  6. Giulio said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 11:07 am

    The verb is "sbaraccare", is used in colloquial contexts, and means something like "clear out".
    The standard spelling (3rd person) is "sbaracca", not "sbarca".

    "Sbarca" comes from the verb "sbarcare", which means, as you said, "disembark".
    But, "sbaraccare-sbaracca-clear out" is an entirely different verb from "sbarcare-sbarca-disembark". In other words, there's no emphatic 'a'.

    They simply got rid of the ending '-a' (which is common practice in some regional variations of Italian), and substituted 'cc' with 'k', for the purpose of witticism.

    On a personal note: as an Italian citizen, I really do hope that Mr. B. could "sbaraccare" as soon as possible.

  7. Giovanni said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 11:10 am

    Mr Garzanti is not convincing about his (false) false friends; his Italian online dictionary has this as an example: sbaraccare un accampamento. Whatever.

    With respect to the original analysis: "sbaracare" as spelt in the original post does not exist at all. "Sbarcare" is to disembark.
    Mo' (including the apostrophe) means now, as noted above.
    Sbarack is a rendering of sbaracca (present indicative, or imperative, 3rd pers. sing.), meaning "leave camp", thus "go away".

  8. .mau. said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 11:17 am

    @Licia: I was certain too that the video was shot in Bologna just looking at the title. I think that the reason an Italian speaker "knows" it is that he or she puts the stress in the last syllable to mock Mubarak's surname; saying it loud resembles the construction of the dialect spoken in Emilia.

  9. Licia said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 11:22 am

    @ Giovanni: I don't think sbaraccare has the military meaning you suggest, unless it's some kind of army jargon. The noun baracca conveys the idea of something temporary or in bad repair, both literally and figuratively (think of the expressions mandare avanti la baracca or piantare baracca e burattini), and I believe these connotations are to be found also in the verb sbaraccare.

    Maybe a crucial piece of information is missing here – the names of Berlusconi and Mubarak are closely linked in the Italian imagination because of recent scandals: last year, a 17-year-old belly dancer, Ruby "Rubacuori" was released from a police station in Milan following a direct intervention by Berlusconi claiming that she was Mubarak's niece. In Italy right now there are loads of jokes that run along the lines of "Mubarak calls the Italian government claiming he is Ruby's uncle…"

  10. Ellis said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 11:43 am

    I'm flattered beyond belief: not only is my comment promoted, but then a video is posted in which I'm lurking in the crowd somewhere (my legs still ache from slow walking around Bologna yesterday).

    It's 'Mo' before an imperative that strikes me as typically Bolognese (which I don't speak, but can just about understand, tho' I don't hear it that much), as in 'mo va la'.

    On the subject of linguistic entertainment and Berlusconi, for the non-Italians here (the Italians by now being heatily sick of it, I imagine), The Arcore's Nights:

  11. Jo said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 11:53 am

    At the demonstration in Florence yesterday I saw somebody holding a sign that seemed to be in Arabic, except for the word "Berlusconi". Unfortunately I couldn't get close enough to ask what it said, but I think the choice of language was a message in itself.

  12. Bill Walderman said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 12:38 pm

    Can anyone explain the origin of the adverb mo' and why it's written with an apostrophe?

  13. Ellis said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 12:53 pm

    My distionary of Roman gives it as 'mo' with neither apostrophe nor accent, and says that although many think it from Latin 'modo', it's more probably from 'mox'.

  14. Pflaumbaum said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 1:59 pm

    I wonder how long before we get a Tea Party version with "No Mo' Barack".

  15. Paolo said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 2:05 pm

    @ Bill Walderman: mo should be written with an apostrophe only when it is a noun, not an adverb like in this example, but as it is used only in colloquial Italian, we don't get to see it in print very often and I am not surprised that this type of minor spelling mistake might be made.
    Anyway, the apostrophe signals a truncated form: modo –> mo', like poco –> po'.

  16. Sili said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 3:47 pm

    And just in case you're wondering why Italians are waving signs about their prime minister…

    It's Italy.

  17. Emiliano said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 6:15 pm

    @Sili: I do not know where you are from, but I suppose it is some perfect country, unlike the ones we have here on Earth.

  18. Rubrick said,

    February 14, 2011 @ 6:45 pm

    I believe it's actually a protest against the contreversial, recently-passed U.S. healthcare law.

    The sign refers to "sbarracare". Quoting myl, "…sbaraccare and barrack are at least cousins." The relationship between "barrack" and "Barack" is obvious. Therefore, sbarracare == Obamacare. QED.

  19. Fabio M. said,

    February 15, 2011 @ 5:55 am

    I am myself from Emilia-Romagna (the same region of Bologna), and mo' is very frequently used in the regional variety of Italian that is spoken there. As correctly mentioned in the entry from Treccani dictionary posted by Paolo, mo', in this variety, mainly means 'now', a meaning that is compatible with the global meaning of the phrase Mo' sbarak (Now, go away). As also correctly pointed by Paolo, mo' is a typically oral expression, and there may be some oscillation in spelling. However, in may variety, and I suspect in Bologna (and unlike what is indicated in the Treccani dictionary), mo' is clearly pronounced with a low-mid /O/, not a high (or closed, as they say) /o/, exactly like po', which is spelled with an apostrophe. I have some doubts, however, in attributing the expression to a particular geographic area. Personally, I first saw the panel in a picture from the protest in Barcelona, but apparently the same sign was seen at least in Bari (, and it is interesting to note that the author of this blog ( identifies "mo' sbarak" as being related to the "local slang".

  20. Fabio M. said,

    February 15, 2011 @ 6:24 am

    Update: a picture of the "mo sbarack" sign in Bari (which is much more "iconic" than the one from Bologna) can be seen here:

  21. army1987 said,

    February 15, 2011 @ 6:48 am

    Not being familiar with Bolognese mo'-before-infinitive, I took Sbarak to stand for sbaracco (first person singular present, i.e. “I'm clearing off”), which I took as a over-optimistic imagined quote of what Berlusconi would have to say.

    As for mo', "REGION." essentially means that it's a word which mysteriously disappeared from standard Italian despite being widely attested in older Italian literature and surviving in a large majority (by population) of vernacular dialects. There are quite a few more words to which this happened, and I have no idea why.

  22. Paolo said,

    February 15, 2011 @ 8:08 am

    @ myl: maybe you should correct your update, the verb is sbaraccare (one R and two C's) and the imperative is sbaracca.
    @ army1987: I think you meant imperative, as mo is hardly ever used with the infinitive; also quite common with first and third person present indicative to emphasise an action that is just about to happen.

  23. army1987 said,

    February 15, 2011 @ 9:17 am

    Yeah I meant imperative

  24. a George said,

    February 15, 2011 @ 12:22 pm

    @Fabio M.: — does this mean that when Montecatini used Gino Bramieri to advertise buckets made of polypropylene (actually an Italian development!), making him exclaim in every commercial "e Mò, e Mò, e MOPLEN!", he was actually not merely repeating a syllable, but also being an active language user?

  25. Paolo said,

    February 15, 2011 @ 5:36 pm

    @ George, do you mean this ad?

    The first “e mo?” clearly means “and now?” and the rest is a play on words.

    Incidentally, in Romagna mo might have another meaning. Repeating it at least three times, often more, e.g. mo mo mo, usually expresses surprise (examples here and here) and sometimes surprise with a hint of disapproval. It’s very colloquial and I would associate it mainly with people over a certain age or maybe from rural areas.

  26. a George said,

    February 15, 2011 @ 6:25 pm

    @Paolo: indeed, or very similar ones. I learnt my first Italian in the early 1960s by means of pubblicità, in particular Carosello, which this obviously was (the final piccolo notes). Inconfondibile, as the man says. TV commercials were marvellous for learning a language; the message was simple, repeated, although with variations, and the jokes could be understood by a child. For many years (until versions on video and DVD became available) I was one of those few who carried an oral tradition – I knew and know several of the 1960s dialogues by heart. Il signor sì che se n'intende!

  27. Fabio M. said,

    February 16, 2011 @ 3:47 am

    @George: I didn't know this ad, but I confirm that Gino Bramieri is clearly saying the first "e mo'" meaning "e adesso?" ("and now?"). This seems confirmed by his mimic. The fact that Bramieri is dressed as a housewife probably confirms that mo' was (and is) perceived as 'popular' (which in the Italian linguistic sphere has never been very different from 'regional'). Another Moplen ad is this one:, in which, interestingly, the first woman speaking (presumably from Central-Southern Italy) pronounces "e mo'" with 'raddoppiamento sintattico', while Gino Bramieri (a Milanese) systematically pronounces the m of mo' as simple.

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