Italian expression of the day: ‘Fare le corna’

Have you ever spotted an Italian ‘making horns’?

Here’s a demonstration in case you’re not sure what that looks like:

No, they’re not telling you to ‘rock on’. In Italy the gesture is a sign you’re hoping for good luck, similar to crossing your fingers in English-speaking countries.

Le corna (‘horns’) invoke bull-like strength and they’re thought to ward off il malocchio or ‘evil eye’ – any kind of curse or ill fortune. (Note that one horn, il corno, is masculine, but the plural mysteriously becomes feminine and ends unusually in ~a.)

You mime them whenever you want to ward off something bad happening or your plans being derailed, for instance…

Vengo in Italia per Natale… facciamo le corna.

I’m coming to Italy for Christmas… fingers crossed (literally: ‘let’s make horns’).

It’s similar to touching wood for luck or protection (though Italians also have another equivalent of that superstition: tocca ferro or ‘touch iron’, referring to rubbing a horse shoe for luck).

READ ALSO: Unlucky for some: Thirteen strange Italian superstitions

Especially in the south of Italy, le corna are performed with your fingers pointing down towards the ground.

It’s safer to do the gesture that way round since ‘the horns’ can also be an insult: they invoke the bull’s horns that in ancient times were said to symbolize a betrayed lover. Miming them derisively at someone else is a way to imply they’ve been cheated on.

For the same reason, be sure not to confuse fare le corna (‘make horns’) with fare le corna a qualcuno (‘put horns on someone’): the latter means ‘to be unfaithful’.

Mi ha fatto le corna ma l’ho perdonata.

She cheated on me but I forgave her.

And if today’s date has you worrying about misfortune, don’t worry: Friday the 13th isn’t considered unlucky in Italy. The bad news, though, is that Friday the 17th is. So save those horns for January.

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