Have you ever wondered where the Venetian saying "fora dae bae" (off/out of balls, out of here or other perceptible expressions in Italian) comes from? No, it's not what most people believe. There is a clear allusion to the balls, but without any reference to the male genitals. This saying actually has its origin in a precise point of the city of Venice, which very few people know. This is the old tobacco factory, the ancient Manifattura dei Tabacchi located in the Santa Croce sestiere at Fondamenta de la Fabbrica dei Tabacchi. Today we will discover not only the origins of the saying "fora dae bae", but also what connection there is with the place where tobaccos were produced.
The history of the tobacco factory which gave rise to the saying
The factory dedicated to the processing of tobacco originated in the last twenty years of the 1700s and, despite several moves that led it to operate at the main site of our history located in Fondamenta de la fabbrica dei tabacchi in the Santa Croce sestiere, it continued to be active and operational even after the fall of the Republic of the Serenissima. Only with the Kingdom of Italy the management of the company was no longer private but passed to the State, which kept the same employees and the same working hours. The factory offered a lot of work and boasted about 1740 workers including just over 1500 women, called "tabacchine". The working conditions were extremely harsh, both for the environment in which the workers spent most of their day and for the rigid discipline and humiliations they had to endure. Every day, at the end of the work shift, the workers were subjected to heavy body searches to avoid thefts. Permission was required to drink, go to the bathroom and even sing, a concession only given at Christmas and Easter. However, regardless of this insane rigidity in the workplace, according to many people, the workers of the tobacco factory were privileged, given the benefit of working for the State, the greater guarantees and the much higher salary as well as safe. The working hours were reduced to 8 hours a day and each employee had 50 paid days in case of illness: a job position that, despite the sacrifices and hardship, guaranteed a considerable economic stability for the time. A few meters before the entrance door to the factory, there was a gate connected to two columns with two stone balls on top, one on the right and one on the left. Today unfortunately they have disappeared but these are the "balls" that will give rise to one of the most common Venetian sayings.
Returning to working rigidity, the same also concerned the beginning of the time of entry into the factory, determined by the sound of a bell that lasted the time necessary to enter. At the end of the melody, the gate was closed and there was no possibility of entering: consequently, latecomers were forced to stay outside the gate, or rather "fora dae bae", that is, beyond the stone balls on the columns which marked the entrance to the tobacco factory. This was a funny saying used mainly by tobacconists or tabacchine, who were therefore "off/out the balls" if they arrived too late at work.