We all need to talk to each other, but how we do it varies a lot from place to place. Every culture has its own ways of talking to each other, which makes our human family so interestingly varied.
Not only do people around the world speak thousands of different languages, but we also have culturally specific ways of speaking, speech patterns, and body language, some of which are easy to spot.
The Italian “finger purse” is a good example.
People from Italy are known to talk with their hands a lot. Between northern and southern Italy, Italian hand gestures can be a little different, but the “finger purse” is one that everyone knows. This is the sign made when the tips of the fingers and thumb are pressed together (making a purse shape) and pointed up. This is often done in a back-and-forth or up-and-down motion with one hand or both. Along with the rhythm of putting more emphasis on certain words, especially when speaking with passion, the finger purse is often used to ask a question with a sense of irritation, exasperation, or confusion.
i absolutely need to have an italian baby who gesticulates with the passion of a 64 year old sicilian man pic.twitter.com/hWqhGFGbh1— levy (@1929stockcrash) November 6, 2022
Most of us think of this gesture as something an Italian grandma or grandpa would do, but when it comes from a tiny little Italian person, it’s hilarious. A video that has gone viral was first posted by @guiseppe matilde on TikTok. It shows a preschooler going on a passionate rant in Italian, both in the way she talks and in the way she moves her hands.
Italian speakers in the comments say that the little girl is telling a story about how someone told her she looked bad in a miniskirt. u/shykawaii shark on Reddit shared:
“For English speakers, this is a rough translation. I didn’t make an exact translation, but I did make it easier to understand.
Mother: That doesn’t make any sense!
Daughter: They asked me, ”What sense does going out with a miniskirt make?” Like, do your own thing! You can leave me alone when I wear my miniskirt.
Mother: That’s right!
Daughter: Don’t think about my miniskirt, think about yours!”
We’ve got a sassy little feminist.
Even better is the full video on TikTok, but it doesn’t have Italian subtitles:
This video is cute, but it also shows how culture gets passed down from one generation to the next. An Australian study found that young people from different cultures imitate adults in ways that animals don’t. Animals will copy adult behavior to the extent that it helps them do a job or is necessary, but people will copy even silly or pointless behavior that has no purpose.
Mark Nielsen, a psychologist at the University of Queensland in Brisbane, Australia, told Science that animals pay attention to getting the job done. “Humans seem to almost forget about the outcome and copy everything we see.”
That people copying actions they don’t need to might add to the complexity of human cultures. Even though the finger purse isn’t really needed to make a point, Italians do it anyway. Little Italians learn it from their parents, and this is how the classic Italian way of talking is passed on.
And thank goodness it is, because it is so cute when babies gesture in Italian.