NEAPOLITANS AND GESTICULATION
THE GESTURING OF NAPOLITANS
The use of the “language with the hands” is a feature of all the Mediterranean’s people and certainly one of the most well-known holographic images of Italians abroad. But it is in Naples that communication through gestures assumes the most striking and bizarre forms, till to become art!
Gesturing became one of the main curiosity of the Neapolitan people that foreigners want to see or getting astonished to see.
By the movement of arms and hands, sometimes we can also understand, as distant observers, the subject of a discussion. Some hand gestures have been used for centuries, and have now become a common form of symbolic communication (many books have been published on this subject, and there is even a dictionary of gestures).
For us it is something innate.
There is no true Neapolitan that does not gesticulate while talking, and if you happen to meet a Neapolitan intent in a heated phone conversation on cell phone, then I invite you to stay a couple of minutes and watch the frantic and incomprehensible dance of the free hand which moves in the air!
For us, the “gesture” is a way to express ourselves, a contribution to our speech and beautify it, because for us is important that our interlocutor understands fully what we are saying, at the cost of being redundant and pedantic.
It is not easy to understand the reason of this behavior, as it is lost in the mists of time, and to understand where it comes by, you should know the cultural and social history of this people.
But beyond the gesture, Neapolitans are also more likely to handle, to touch and palpate. “To Touch” becomes for us a way to interact, to establish a physical contact beyond the verbal one. It also is a way to transmit our trust and affection. For those who are not accustomed to this pattern of behavior, our habit may seem too confidential as well as indelicate. For us there is no malice in “touching“, but something that comes from our well-known friendliness and helpfulness. Besides, we are kinda “material” and sceptical in things, as we need to watch and touch at the same time. For us it is normal to caress and kiss a child even if the first time we meet, give pats on the shoulder of a person we are chatting for the first time, or grab his/her body in case of need.
In private and family life, this aspect is even amplified and what made Neapolitans in world-famous for their “groping” during lovemaking. Alien women, not used at this, remain astonished as well as satisfied, and once it was well-known that many women came in Italy (like Danishes) just to taste such a foreplay whose husbands or local partners were not able to carry out.
About groping, I also must mention the significance of the Neapolitan terms “prendersi il passaggio” and “rattuso“, that have no similar terms in Italian or English language, and that are a form of unpleasant sexual approach.
The first, with the meaning of “catch the chance” or “take the step”, happens when a guy touches (in a sexually way) a woman, usually touching her back or tits even though she had given no explicit consent or not noticing it. It also happens when a guy take the opportunity to touch, letting pass it as a casualness or coincidence. Think, for example, a woman who is falling and with the pretext of helping her, you grab her, touching the breast; in this case we say that you took “il passaggio”.
The term “rattuso” is much more difficult to translate, perhaps deriving from “ratto = rape” even though little to do with it. This term is saddled who habitually takes advantage of certain opportunities to touch or rub his crotch against a woman’s body. Usually, are elderly men to act so, trying to do it without getting noticed by others, but their excitement does not go unnoticed by the victim. They take advantage of the fact that some victims do not complain because ashamed and timid. Think, for example, to a crowded bus where standing people are jammed, and the bus jolts conceals and justifies bodies movements and close contacts. A guy who likes to do this is “kindly” nicknamed a “rattuso”.