Italians are very superstitious and, obviously, they have different gestures and expressions they use to ward off bad luck.
In a previous article I focused on some objects and gestures that Italians use against bad luck – How to get rid of bad luck – Italian practices.
In this article, instead, I’d like to talk about the most common idiomatic expressions to wish good luck in Italian.
IN BOCCA AL LUPO
In bocca al lupo is one of the most common expressions to wish good luck in Italian. Literally it means in the mouth of the wolf.
The origin of this curious Italian idiomatic expression is uncertain.
One of the most popular explanations is that this expression is linked with the image wolves traditionally had in the past.
In fact, in the past, wolves were considered dangerous animals that brought terror and death.
This is because in rural areas it wasn’t uncommon that wolves attacked and killed the livestock. And soon wolves built the reputation of even being pure evil.
So, people who were brave enough to hunt wolves in order to protect their livestock, actually risked to literally end up in the wolves’ mouth.
With the time, in bocca al lupo became an antiphrase, that’s to say a sentence that means the opposite of what it states, and became to be used as a way to wish good luck to hunters.
Now, let’s see how to answer to someone who wishes you in bocca al lupo.
If someone in Italy wishes you in bocca al lupo, just remember not to reply grazie – this is thought to actually bring you bad luck.
Indeed, the good-luck-ritual cannot be complete without a proper answer that in Italy is crepi – literally, may the wolf die.
IN CULO ALLA BALENA
Another common, and definitely stronger expression, to wish good luck in Italian is in culo alla balena – literally in the ass of the whale.
Also the origin of this peculiar Italian idiomatic expression is unclear.
One of the most popular explanations is that it originated from a tale in the Bible.
The Bible tells the story of Jonah, a prophet. God was unhappy with the people of Nineveh, so he commanded Jonah to both scold them and call them to repentance.
However, Jonah decided to disregard God’s will and fled, boarding on a ship. But God sent out a big storm to stop him from escaping.
When the crew of the ship realized that the storm was basically Jonah’s fault, they decided to throw Jonah into the sea.
In the sea, Jonah was swallowed by a whale. He stayed in its belly for three days and three nights, until he prayed to God and, as a result, he was spit out onto a beach.
Now, let’s go back to the explanation of the Italian idiom in culo alla balena. The idea behind it is that the whale’s belly is seen as a safe place. Indeed, being in the whale’s belly prevented Jonah from drowning.
However, in my opinion this explanation has many flaws, the biggest being the failure to explain why belly became ass.
Anyway, whatever the origin of this Italian idiom is, in culo alla balena is a common way in Italian to wish somebody good luck.
Even in this case, if you really want to have good luck you should reply in the right way: speriamo che non caghi – Let’s hope it won’t shit.
Did you know these two idiomatic expressions to wish good luck in Italian? What do you say in your country?
Original image by Pixel-mixer
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Thank you. Glad you liked it.