Superstition – Italy

In bocca lupo

In the mouth of the wolf


–Might the wolf die

This is a way of wishing someone good luck without actually saying it. According to Francesca, it is similar to the English “Break a leg”. This is said right before an exam, a performance, or any other kind of activity wish one needs to be wished good luck for. She first heard this when she was a college student in Italy. She believes it became popular because agguri, the former way of wishing luck, was too formal, and students are always looking to be different. It is now believed that saying agguri brings the person it was said to misfortune.

Francesca says this phrase to her students before every quiz or exam she gives. My previous Italian professor said this to me when I mentioned I was getting married during the break. The phrase seems to be applied to almost every situation.

As opposed to Francesca, I do not believe that this phrase is similar to “break a leg”. “In bocca lupo” can be applied to many different situations unlike “break a leg” which is usually used in theatrical performances. It also differs because a person must answer “Crepo!” while with the other nothing has to be said. I do believe that they both serve a similar purpose, not conforming to the norm which society has previously decided. I heard this phrase before from another Italian professor at the University of Southern California. It seems that this phrase is part of college folklore or more specifically Italian speaking college students.