Gesture: Bras d’honneur


This gesture is a taboo, so no recording will accompany it- only a description. To do it, you’re supposed to bring one arm up high across the chest with a clenched fist, before making a fist with your other hand and striking the inner elbow of the risen arm.


My informant mentioned that Italians tend to be known for the gestures they make when speaking. She mentions that this is one specific type of gesture that you would see your aunts and uncles do, but which you weren’t supposed to do yourself. It is meant to mean “screw you”. It’s supposed to resemble a person hanging up an umbrella, hence the name. A notable difference between this version of the gesture and the more popular one you might find by looking it up online is that this version involves hitting the elbow with your fist, whereas the more common version involves slapping your elbow. 


Hand gestures in Italian culture seem to be a way to stand out compared to whoever the person doing them is talking to. It also serves as a natural form of punctuation, adding greater emphasis to whatever a person says. As a result, a major gesture that basically says “screw you” could be a very effective tool in shutting someone down. Because of its severity, though, it appears far more taboo. The way that this version of the gesture involves a fist instead of a slap to the elbow could represent a greater severity- a “punch” rather than a slap, showing more force and far more aggression towards the person it is directed at.