Avere la coda di paglia

Avere la coda di paglia in Italian

Avere la coda di paglia
To have a guilty conscience

Literal translationTo have a tail made of straw
MeaningFeeling guilty or nervous because of wrongdoing
IPA pronunciation/ˈavere la ˈkoːda di ˈpaʎʎa/

You can also translate to have a guilty conscience as avere la coscienza sporca, which literally means to have a dirty conscience.

Where does this come from? The origin of this expression is very interesting. It comes from one of Aesop‘s fables. A fox was caught in a trap. She managed to escape but lost its tail in the process. The fox was so distressed and afraid of being made fun of that the other animals decided to make her a straw tail to replace the one she had lost, and it was so well made that those who didn’t know about it couldn’t tell it was fake.

However, a rooster finally spills the beans. Now all the animals knew about the fox’s straw tail! Word even got to the farmers, who soon started lighting fires around their chicken cooks to keep the fox, whose straw tail could easily catch fire, away. That is why avere la coda di paglia is used to describe someone who is hiding a secret that they don’t want other people to know.

man who can't decide between right and wrong

For example, you can say…

Chi ha la coda di paglia ha paura di essere scoperto.
Those with “tails made of straw” are afraid of being discovered.

Ti sei arrabbiato senza un motivo. Hai forse la coscienza sporca?
You got angry without a reason. Do you perhaps have a guilty conscience?

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