Learning expressions by hearing them, repeating them, and figuring out, little by little, the right context to use them in is a great way to learn. But sometimes it’s fun to see where these expressions come from and a visual image can help us remember them. Let's talk about wrinkles.
Somebody has a plan, or an explanation for something. How do we say that it “holds water,” it’s “faultless,” it “makes perfect sense,” "there's no argument?"
But let's start off with the premise that Italians are very concerned with clothes, and figura (impression — how they are viewed by the outside world) and most people know that Italy is an important fashion center. Many Italian kids learn early on that getting their t-shirts dirty will make mamma unhappy, so they try to keep their clothes clean. Not only puliti (clean) but stirati (ironed). So it makes a certain amount of sense that some expressions use ironing metaphors!
In an episode of La Ladra, Eva has an elaborate plan all worked out, which she describes to her girlfriends.
Here’s Gina’s response.
Non fa una grinza.
Captions 45-47, La Ladra - Ep. 3 - L'oro dello squaloPlay Caption
Gina’s comment non fa una grinza literally means, “it doesn’t make a wrinkle.” She could have said non fa una piega, which is also very common, if not more common, and means the same thing. So the expression means, “it’s clean, it has no blemishes, it’s smooth — no bumps, no wrinkles. It’s perfect.”
If you have been following Commissario Manara, you might have noticed the following exchange between Manara and his chief’s wife, who was on the Miss Maremma jury. There’s a contradiction between how she voted and who she really thought should win. Here is the conversation.
È evidente che avrebbe dovuto vincere Fabiola Alfieri.
It's clear that Fabiola Alfieri should have won.
-Allora perché non ha votato per lei?
-So why didn't you vote for her?
Perché il direttore di un giornale può essere molto utile alla carriera di un marito come il mio.
Because the director of a newspaper can be very useful to the career of a husband like mine.
-Non fa una piega, però non mi convince.
-That makes perfect sense, but it doesn't convince me.
E va bene. Quella Fabiola è di una strafottenza mai vista. Ma chi si crede di essere?
And all right. That Fabiola is unbelievably arrogant. But who does she think she is?
Captions 34-40, Il Commissario Manara - S2EP4 - Miss MaremmaPlay Caption
So in this expression, regardless of whether grinza or piega is used, the verb is fare (to do/to make). It generally refers to a statement, a reason, an explanation, or a motive, so, di conseguenza (consequently), it’s usually in the third person singular.
It’s a handy expression when all the evidence points to one answer or reasoning you can’t find fault with (even though you wish you could).
Una grinza (a crease, a wrinkle) is the noun form, and its verb form is raggrinzare (to wrinkle) or raggrinzire (to wrinkle).
Piegare means “to fold,” “to bend,” so the noun una piega is “a fold” or “a crease.”
In the negative sense una piega is something that shouldn’t be there, like a crease caused by careless ironing.
The noun form piega is used in another common expression. It is almost always negative, it goes together with brutto (bad/ugly), and usually refers to some kind of situation. In this case, the meaning of piega is closer to “bend,” than to “fold” or “crease.”
Smettiamo prima che questa conversazione prenda una brutta piega.
Let’s stop before this conversation takes a turn for the worse.
Let’s stop before this conversation gets ugly/goes bad.
Check out WordReference for more meanings of la piega.