If you have to meet a Neapolitan in Partenope’s town or perhaps elsewhere it could be useful to have a minimal and sufficiently reliable “hand vocabulary” for a communication of emergency. We tell you the most important Neapolitan gestures.
The knowledge about the most important Neapolitan gestures is very useful in Naples, especially when you don’t talk Italian or the Neapolitan language:-)
The language of the hands, like every type of evolved communication, has also its dialects. Today in the territory of the ancient Kingdom of Naples you can meet inhabitants coming from various regions that indicate two completely different concepts with the same Neapolitan gesture. For example, if you compare the hand vocabulary of a Neapolitan with that one of a Calabrian or a Sicilian you can discover amazing differences, sometimes in little details.
The following gestures are typical in the area of Naples, although some of them are present in all South of Italy or even if along the whole Italian peninsula.
The author of all drawings is © Francesca Buommino from Naples.
Ma che vvuó?
“What are you saying?” – the thumb joines all other fingers of the hand turned upwards and the wrist oscillates repeatedly towards the shoulder. This gesture is addressed to a person, who talk much, but without making itself understandable (often ironically).
“What do you want?” – Often it can be more than a question, because understands a hidden threatening tone, nearly to the a challenge launched to whom is watching you and for this reason is considered provocatively or dangerous.
“Tiene ‘ e ‘ ccorna” (You are a cuckold) – Surely, this is one of the gestures that should be absolutely learnt by heart if you plan a travel to Naples and want to avoid misunderstandings. It is one of most popular one and if turned to a male it becomes one of the worse offense that you can brought to a Neapolitan or South Italian man: it means that his wife is unfaithful.
“Uocchio e maluocchio” (a gesture warding off ill-luck) – the Neapolitan people is very superstitious and believes in the power of the malocchio (evil eye) . If the fingers point to the soil, this gesture is to protect against the evil eye and is warding off ill-luck.
“If I will get you….” or also “Fuck!”
Si n’allocco, nu’ turzo
”You are a fool, a booby!” The lower arm is in vertical and well visible position, whereby the hand turns around the axle of the arm. This gesture is turned to persons, who are regarded as simpleton and booby.
Ma chi t’ha fatto fa’?
Why did you do it?
Amici per la pelle