Supplement to the Italian Dictionary

From left to right: money, past tiems, affirmations, stupid, good, wait a moment, to walk backwards, to steal, horns, to ask for.  Meaning of the gestures: silence, no, beauty, hunger, to mock, weariness, stupid, squint, to deceive, cunning.  <i>Top:</i> The gesture of drinking and eating. <i>Bottom</i>: 'You act a sham part of a first lady!'

A first collection of gestures was made by Canon Andrea de Jorio and published in 1832 by the Fibreno Printing and Paper House in Naples; the volume was composed of 380 pages of text and 19 illustrations.
The title of the book was "The Ancients mimic through the Neapolitan gestures" and was dedicated "To His Royal Highness Frederick William Crown Prince of Prussia, Naples 15th October 1832 - your humble and devoted servant Canon Andrea de Jorio".

At the end of the text, before the illustrations, Giuseppagnolo del Forno R.R. wrote " our famous Canon Andrea de Jorio who is probably better known outside Italy, for his literature and his knowledge of all ancient monuments, for which the Neapolitan Kingdom will be eternally famous, succedeed, in spite of all difficulties, in interpreting and explaining the gestures of the Ancients through vases, paintings, bas-reliefs and works of the classical Authors. He showed, with well grounded reasons, that their mimic is strictly related to that of the Napolitan people, once colony of glorious Athens, accompaining his successful attempts with pleasant erudition sprinkled with "Attic Salt" as to give great delight to the readers by his gayety elegant style".

The author examines in this website the different ways of talking without a single word being spoken, by using only the hands or by the expressions of the face or the attitude of the body. The author explains, for example, that NO can be said in several ways: quickly lifting the eyebrows or looking the other way; lifting the head so as to push it them upwards, looking at the object and holding out the head and swinging it left and right, turning the back to the speaker, slightly turning the upper part of the body.

As time passed and with the spreading fo the Neapolitans many of these ancient gestures have become nationally used, some are even understood in other parts of the world. Lately some foreign have been adopted in Italy such as the famous American OK.
We have colletcted a good many, leaving aside vulgar ones, in order to give an idea to foreigners visiting Italy and as a supplement to the Italian dictionary.

Bruno Munari · 1963