Did you know that there are approximately 250 hand gestures used by Italians on a daily basis ? Yes, 250! Few conversations are ever complete without one.
But where do they all come from?
Gestures partly come from the Italian love for dramatic and theatrical representations.
But they also partly originate from a long history of Italy being invaded by many other countries that imposed their languages, cultures and mannerisms.
This meant there were language barriers, so people had to come up with other ways of communicating.
We’ve chosen seven of the most common gestures to share with you.
But before we start, remember that gesticulating isn’t just about the hands; it’s also about facial expressions and posture.
So stretch out your neck and shoulders, open your eyes, warm up your eyebrows, and get ready to move your hands like never before!
Place your hand with your palm facing downwards; then, as you speak and reach the subject of the conversation, flip your hand over so that your palm is now facing upwards.
Difficulty: Easy peasy
|A situation or person has changed drastically
|Disappointed or sad
|È cambiato / cambiata da così a così!
(He / she changed from this to that!)
We usually use this gesture when we feel sad or disappointed with someone’s behaviour.
Make your hand into a fist and bite your index finger or flatten your hand and bite the top part of your index finger.
Difficulty: You can do it, Charlie Brown!
|You want to refrain from saying something you’ll regret later
|Porca miseria! (What the heck!)
Cavolo! (No way!)
Mannaggia! (Damn it!)
Use this one to let another person know you’re struggling to stay calm. It works well when something doesn’t go as planned, or when someone does something wrong.
Stretch your pinkie and index fingers with your hand facing downwards to look like horns.
Difficulty: You can do it, Charlie Brown!
|You’re protecting yourself from the Evil Eye, or against anyone who’s badmouthing us, or someone close to us.
This gesture is often referred to as fare le corna (literally, “to do the horns”).
Here is the Italian hand gesture you’ve all been waiting for.
I bet you’ve been wondering, are they going to mention that hand gesture? The most classic of all Italian gestures known to man.
Are you ready?
It’s the one and only “pinecone hand” gesture.
Gather your fingertips to one imaginary point making sure to keep your fingers stretched out.
|Someone says something a bit silly
|Ma che fai? (But what are you doing?!)
Ma dove vai? (But where are you going?!)
|You’re sarcastically questioning a friend’s sanity
|Ma chi sei? (But who are you?!)
Ma che vuoi? (But what do you want?)!
Ma perché? (But WHY?!)
Pretty self-explanatory, we reckon…
Use your index and middle finger to imitate a fork picking up spaghetti; your elbow should face sidewards.
|You’re hungry and really craving spaghetti
(A round of spaghetti)
Italians love pasta – and spaghetti is the epitome of Italian cuisine. Whether it’s lunch or dinner, suggesting to have a spaghettata will always be a great idea.
With your palm facing inwards, flatten your fingers but lift only your thumb; then move your hand several times in an up-and-down motion.
|Telling someone that you want to leave or that you should leave together
|Andiamo! (Let’s go!)
This one’s pretty handy when you find yourself in an uncomfortable situation that you want to get out of.
Same as above, but use your other hand to smack the back of the hand that moves.
|Telling someone to leave
|Fed up and bothered
Oh, vattene! (Go away!)
You should only use it with people you know well, and who can take a joke. You’re basically asking them to completely disappear from the picture!
Move your hand to the sound of: aumm aumm. Lower your palm and move your fingers (pinkie first, then the others progressively) like you’re playing a harp.
|You think something funny is going on
|Spread your cheekbones as if you were forcing a smile, and stretch your lips so that they’re almost invisible.
|A situation seems a bit shady, or even illegal
|Raise both your eyebrows as if you know what is actually going on.
What’s important here is the perfect synchrony between the movement of the hand and the pronunciation of aumm, aumm.
Don’t worry, with a little bit of practice you will soon become a Jedi Master of Italian gestures.
The beauty of gestures lies in the fact that you don’t really need to learn Italian to know what’s going on, so keep on practising, and before you know it you’ll be able to show everyone how Italian you really are!
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