Italians Talk with Hands

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"Be handy, be Italian!"


If you have an Italian character (or a character with Italian origins) and you want to point it out clearly, you're probably going to have him/her gesticulate every time he/she says something relevant.

However, it's not just a stereotype.

Exaggerations apart, this trope is a case of Truth in Television. It isn't strictly Italian, though, the custom being common around the Mediterranean (Greeks, Lebanese, Spaniards and Egyptians are all widely noted for their fondness for gesticulation), owing to a long history of trade and other interaction between peoples who speak different languages (gestures can get a message across well even with the most limited of speech). It's also useful in the present day, since Italy has an incredibly wide range of different dialects.

Examples of Italians Talk with Hands include:


Anime and Manga

Comedy Series

Film

  • Italian comedies are full of this trope.
  • Happens a lot, of course, in virtually any movie about Italian Mafia.
  • In Mission: Impossible 3, we see this outside the Vatican.
  • The main character of Eat Pray Love is told that Italian is spoken with the hands.
  • In Inglourious Basterds, the three American soldiers who have to impersonate Italians (without speaking a word of it) at a Nazi party punctuate every sentence with arm gestures. The guy they're trying to fool isn't (primarily because of his own mastery of the language), but goes along with the act since it's so funny.

Literature

As our larynxes descended, we were able to make sounds with our mouths in new and far more expressive ways. Verbal language soon overtook physical gesturing as the primary means of communication for all human beings except Italians.

Live Action TV

  • It is part of the OTT stereotype that Captain Bertorelli does this a lot in Allo Allo.
  • Desperate Housewives: Bree Hodge gesticulates while trying to impress some Italian clients of her catering agency.
  • The Beverly Hillbillies: Jethro was dating an Italian woman and claimed he knew Italian because he could make the gesture pictured.

Video Games

  • Mario and Luigi can do this as part of their gestures whenever they "talk" in the Mario & Luigi games.

Web Original

  • The meme Philosoraptor once contained the question, "If an Italian is missing an arm, can we say he has speech impediment"?

Western Animation

  • Chef Luigi Risotto and, on a lesser grade, Fat Tony from The Simpsons.
  • This trope occurs every time an Italian character appears in Family Guy.
    • It was itself directly parodied when Peter grew a mustache and thought he could speak Italian - by speaking gibberish and gesticulating.

Real Life

  • In Italy itself, Southern Italians are said to gesticulate more than Northern Italians. Also, some gestures vary from zone to zone.
  • In Argentina, there has been a massive cultural influence from Italian immigrants, including food and language. Gesture language included, and to this date a lot of Italian hand gestures have been adopted.