It has become kind of a joke that Italians speak with their hands, that when Italians speak there are hands motions going all over the place, but there’s always a reason behind it. The gestures aren’t random motions at all; they all have their own significance and context for use. Silvia Marchetti has compiled a small compiled a nice collection of gestures and their respective significance for CNN.

 

1.

The Horns (‘E Corn) – Made by clenching the middle and ring finger, all the while extending the remaining fingers. Though originally a superstitious gesture used to drive away curses and bad luck, it is now an insult, used to call someone a cuckold or a bastard. Use it freely when stuck in traffic.

2.

What the hell are you saying/What do you mean/What are you talking about? (Ma che stai a dì/ma che vuoi?) – By bringing the fingertips of your extended fingers together and motioning your hand up and down, you are questioning what the person is saying. Though, it is very often used in conversation and it can be sometimes used without actually meaning to ask “What are you saying?”.

 

 

3.

Get lost/ Go away (Ma và và) – With an open palm and outstretched arm, while moving the arm up and down, you are quite clearly telling someone to go away. It can sometimes be used as a sort of playful “Oh, go away”. But, be careful as if it’s serious and you don’t follow suit, the up and down motion can quickly be switched into a slap across the face.

4.

I'll make yours this big (Ti faccio un coso così) – Stick out only your thumbs and index fingers and hold them a few inches apart around the lower waist area. This means something like “I’ll kick you so hard that your buttocks will have a gap this big between them”. It can be used as a joke threat, but like with “Ma và” make sure to read the signals right as it can be quite an aggressive threat.

 

 

5.

Scratch (Grattata) – Basically consists of using your left hand to mimic scratching your left testicle. This doesn’t necessarily mean you’re itchy, it’s a away to ward off evil spirits, bad luck or even bad news. It can be used when a black cat crosses your path just the same as it can be used when you are about to receive test results. The female equivalent is to touch your left breast with your right hand.

6.

Smart Move ('Ntaccatu) – The thumb is rested gently against the cheek, the little finger points outwards and the remaining fingers remain clenched. This gesture is used to express approval to something.

 

 

7.

The umbrella (L’ombrello) – With one arm, the forearm is brought chest high and the fist is clenched, the other hand slaps the crook of the arm that is raised with the clenched fist. This gesture mimics the hanging an umbrella of a hook and it is basically a way to tell people to bugger off. It can be used in a very offensive manner.

8.

Want to go out with me/have sex? (Sesso) – Pointing towards a person with both hands while having your index fingers close together can be a way to ask them if they want to go out with you. Also, clenching a fist and mimicking knocking on a door can be a way to ask if you want to have sex.

 

 

9.

Beware (Occhio) – This gesture is done by placing your index finger bellow the eye, tilting your head towards the person slightly and glowering. It is a warning that you are keeping an eye on them, that you see what they’re doing and you’re not fooled by them.

10.

 

If I catch you (Si t'ancagliu) – Hold your hand horizontally and chop it with your teeth (without hurting yourself, obviously), the bitten hand will then chop the air. This is used to tell someone that if you get them, you’re going to hurt them. It can also be done by men when eyeing up a women to indicate that they can hardly control themselves just from looking at her (for this meaning it can also be biting a clenched fist and not the hand horizontally).

Tomas R.

 

 

 

 

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