name that vulgar gesture
October 19, 2013 5:27 PM   Subscribe

Left forearm is horizontal, with left hand touching right elbow, right forearm is vertical and the right hand raised in a fist held above shoulder with the palm facing inward. The motion of inserting the left hand into the right elbow while raising the right fist is important.

Everyone knows what it means, but does this gesture have a name? "fuck you arm gesture" isn't yielding anything.
posted by kickback to Human Relations (19 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I googled "Italian arm curse."
posted by DoubleLune at 5:28 PM on October 19, 2013

Bras d'honneur
posted by maggieb at 5:29 PM on October 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

I found this Googling 'up yours arm gesture'.
posted by Fig at 5:30 PM on October 19, 2013

Arm of honor is awesome. Is "up yours, buddy" the best we English-speakers can do?
posted by kickback at 5:32 PM on October 19, 2013

I grew up the only kid in the neighborhood without a Mc, an unpronounceable mash of consonants, or an ending vowel in his last name. The gesture was always more of an "up yours" than a "fuck you". We almost always added a "me ne frego" - the chin flick.

Man, I miss gesticulating wildly.
posted by notsnot at 6:27 PM on October 19, 2013 [5 favorites]

Hail, Skroob!
posted by Wild_Eep at 7:48 PM on October 19, 2013

It's very similar to the lower your launch bar hand gesture from Aircraft Carrier Flight Deck operations.
posted by Confess, Fletch at 8:10 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

gesso dell'ombrello
posted by Ideefixe at 8:15 PM on October 19, 2013

I have always heard this referred to as the Italian Salute. (nyc)
posted by elizardbits at 8:21 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

I always thought it mimed the forceful and unlubricated insertion of your fist well into the target's colon, and have heard it as 'the Italian salute' also on the East Coast.
posted by a halcyon day at 9:55 PM on October 19, 2013 [2 favorites]

My Italian-American friend used to preface the gesture by saying, "You know where my grandmother keeps her purse? Right here!" {gesture}
posted by mosk at 11:22 PM on October 19, 2013 [1 favorite]

vaffanculo. The pronunciation/spelling varies among the dialects, but the gesture is pretty much universal.
posted by trip and a half at 11:39 PM on October 19, 2013 [4 favorites]

Interestingly, in the UK that gesture is used to express lustful reaction to a woman.
posted by Decani at 12:44 AM on October 20, 2013

The Portuguese Everyman, Zé Povinho, is most commonly depicted performing this gesture, which in Portuguese is called a "manguito" (said "mã[nasal a]-gui[as in 'guitar']-too). Unfortunately Wikipedia doesn't offer a translation for this technical term. However, the literal meaning of "manguito" is "little sleeve" or "mitten", so I propose referring to it in English as "giving someone the mitten".
posted by neblina_matinal at 1:52 AM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

Here in Italy it's accompanied by exclaiming "tie'!", short for tieni=take that (on occasion this can be replaced by a sneering raspberry); a proper execution requires the right hand hitting the forearm as noisily as possible.

Etymologies are vague, usually something to do with medieval armies' menacing gestures (the middle finger shown and then gestured cut off, to scare the enemies archers, the raised forearm "cut" by the opposite hand thus supposedly an escalation to "we'll cut your arms off"); the vulgar in culo interpretation would thereby be a later acquired meaning.
As regards the more polite ombrello rechristening (sticklers might actually distinguish a variated position of the left arm/fist: rather than the fist facing palm-upwards and the arm going vertically up, the fist is held palm-downwards, and the forearm moves horizontally, rendering more of a sticking-in motion), this would seem a further added semantic level, with the prop popularized by Altan's Cipputi as a kind of euphemistic substitution of the body part the forearm was previously understood to be symbolising.
posted by progosk at 4:53 AM on October 20, 2013 [3 favorites]

I had found this book Italian Without Gestures at a garage sale shortly before we went on a trip to Rome, and sure enough, a we saw a group of school children at the Pantheon and could tell quite a lot of what they were saying without being able to hear any of it.
posted by CathyG at 9:11 AM on October 20, 2013

My SO has just reined in my take on the rear-ending comic-strip umbrella as the origin of the conventional, polite name: it's definitely more likely that it derives from the umbrella being habitually hung in the crux of the arm, akin to the placement of the insulter's right hand. Come to think of it: Altan probably chose his prop due to the name of the gesture. OK, all makes sense now.
posted by progosk at 10:34 AM on October 20, 2013

Interestingly, in the UK that gesture is used to express lustful reaction to a woman.

Am I mistaken in remembering there's no involvement of the opposite hand in the UK gesture, Decani? It's just the arm, fist clenched, that goes up - right?
posted by progosk at 10:36 AM on October 20, 2013

Late to this but it's the vaffanculo in my family (Italian-American. Edmonton, Alberta via Sharpsburg PA). "Italian salute" makes sense to me.
posted by gingerest at 4:08 PM on October 20, 2013 [1 favorite]

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