Sunday, February 06, 2011


The phrase "bunga bunga" has become inextricably linked with the private life of Italy's Silvio Berlusconi, and for those who have puzzled over its origins an intriguing new explanation of its meaning has been offered.

'I am bunga bunga,' says 36-year-old German actress Sabina Began The comical-sounding phrase made its first appearance back in October, when 17-year-old Moroccan belly dancer Karima El Mahroug - who calls herself Ruby - said she had attended "bunga bunga" parties with other women at Mr Berlusconi's villa in Milan.

Italian newspapers immediately scrambled to find out its origins.

The finger of blame was initially laid upon Mr Berlusconi's friend Col Muammar Gaddafi, with allegations of parties hosted by the Libyan leader involving "harems" of young Western women.

Then stories circulated claiming the phrase owed its origins to a bawdy joke, which Mr Berlusconi's detractors claimed was one of his favourites.

Then this week Sabina Began, German actress and friend of the Italian prime minister, told Sky Italia that she herself was bunga bunga.

"'Bunga bunga' is simply my nickname," the 36-year-old said.

It's a credible-sounding explanation: "Began" and "Bunga" are not so different, and the repetition gives it a more informal, nickname-like quality.

"Everyone thinks: 'My God! What does that mean?" she is quoted as saying. Ms Began went on to explain that it was she who had organised the parties for Mr Berlusconi.

The expression has quickly become part of the Italian vocabulary, says Italian journalist Annalisa Piras, even though no-one really knows what it means.

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