Friday, March 31, 2006

Associate Justice Antonin Scalia acts as if he has a better command of Italian than he has

This is one of the many things we have in common.

Atrios quotes someone named Smith who claims “The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, ‘To my critics, I say, ‘Vaffanculo,’ ” punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin, Smith said.

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The gesture in question means no such thing. It means "non mi interessa" or, at worst "mi ne frego" or in English "I don't care" or "I couldn't care less" or literally translating the worst interpretation "reflecting on that I scratch myself" without any hint as to exactly where his honor was notionally scratching himself, but hey no hint is needed.

Definitely *not* an obscene gesture. As such a very unusual gesture in Italy. Similarly waving one hand has no hidden obscene meaning. The correct way of miming "va fan culo" is to extend the right arm palm up, place the left hand firmly in the pit across from the right elbow (which is facing down) and then vigorously raise the right forearm. Tragically, due to the influence of US television, young Italians have lost touch with their native body language and use the extended middle finger.

In case the post below causes the reader to doubt my command of Italian, I checked the meaning of the gesture with an actual real live Italian who wishes to remain anonomymous and who was mystified as to how someone could have made such an elementary mistake. After I explained the career of justice Scalia this real live Italian was no longer puzzled and very very glad that he is over there not over here.

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