Margaret Thatcher was una bella gnocca, a “great piece of pussy”, Silvio Berlusconi declared this week, eulogising his ideological heroine as he lashed out at Romano Prodi’s government. The Italian media mogul has never shied away from the language of the public bar, but his choice of words to praise the former British prime minister was startling even by his standards. President François Mitterrand famously remarked of Baroness Thatcher that she had “the eyes of Caligula and the mouth of Marilyn Monroe”. Evidently Mr Berlusconi’s attention was focused elsewhere.
Gnocca, pronounced “nyokka”, is a vulgar term meaning “vulva” and is the standard word used by construction workers, white-van drivers and long-serving Italian prime ministers for any attractive woman who crosses their path. “The typology is composed of elements of the female sex with a high degree of attractiveness,” deconstructs one faintly priapic, cod-academic Italian website. “The fundamental characteristic of the gnocca is to grab from common mortals whatever she needs to satisfy her desires.” A definition that many former Tory cabinet ministers would probably go along with.