Some Gestures Observed

As everyone knows, Italians have a lively language of gesture. A few I observed, in context, during this recent trip:

1. Get Lost Hand Chop. I was on a train when a woman got on and systematically handed out pieces of paper to everyone except me. In Italian it said something slong the lines of I am poor, please give me money so i can feed my children, etc. After she covered a few train-cas, she came by to collect them and beg. One older guy let the piece of paper drop to the floor, and when he asked him for a contibution, he looked off into the middle distance, and did the “hand chop.” While articles on gestures describe this as an up-and-down motion of the right hand, his hand was cupped and it seemed more like he was rubbing a melon. She went away.

2. Eye Pull. I was in Milan buying a ticket to get into the Cathedral. When I got to the front of the line, inasked, “Do you take a card?” To which she replied, “Why wouldn’t we?” I told her I’d recently been in Naples, where plaves often didn’t take cards. “Ah, well they’re pooerer there–good people though, generous people. Still …” And she pulled down her lower right eyelid with her index finger to indicate, “but foxy, watch out for them.” I think she was ironically imitating a Southern mannerism with the gesture.

3. Chin Inquiry & Mezza Mezza. At a restaurant in Tivoli that specialized in grilling over a great big fire, the chef- owner had been sitting with some friends and letting the sous- chef do most of the work. Whenit came time to cook for this table, he went over to the grill himself, held up the steak with tongs for the male friend to see, and lifted his chin quickly. The friend made the mezza- mezza hand sign. I take it this exchange was, How do you want this cooked? With the reply, Medium.

4. Fist Push. On the train between Florence and Milan, I got into a conversation with a very nice guy and his Chinese wife and their adorable daughter. He’s from Milan, but works overseas, and was describing the work ethic of different countries. In the first class compartment, you’re supposed to get a free beverage, but the women pushing the cart breezed right past us. He looked at them leaving, then at me, and curled his hand into a fist which he then pushed away from his chest. “Fucking Italians, eh?” he said.

5. Patient Hand Clasp. I was at a trattoria in Rome and was asking the waitress to explain a few items. She leaned down slightly and clasped her hands in front of her, as if to say, You are vexatious with your many questions but I have infinite reserves of Stoic resolve.

Im sure others will occur to me.

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About Uncomely and Broken

I am a classicist in Sewanee, Tennessee.
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