fellas

How to insult people in Italian: ‘GoodFellas’ edition

Apr 10, 2014

Welcome to Italian translation from the movies 101.

In the dinner scene at Tommy DeVito’s  (Joe Pesci)  house in Martin Scorsese’s classic”Goodfellas,” his mother (Catherine Scorsese) shares a story about a man who keeps quiet because he’s an emasculated sucker. Everybody knows it, including himself, and that’s just the way it is. “Cornuto contento,” the son explains. “[It] means he’s content to be a jerk.”

“But in Italian it sounds much nicer,” the mother adds.

Here comes the lesson. “Cornuto,” for those aspiring linguists and hardcore “GoodFellas” fans at home, literally translates to “with horns.” Death and Taxes resident donna Italiana Robyn Pennacchia has more. “Cornuto contento means a man who is okay with or too afraid to speak up about his wife running around on him–or, rather, content with being a cuckold. If someone was a cuckold,” she said, “you’d make fake horns behind their head the way we make bunny ears. There is actually a hand gesture, the mano cornuto, and it also protects dudes from the evil eye going to their dicks. Like, you’d wear this so no one could put the malook on your dick.”

Thanks, Robyn. We’ll save malook for next week. But why are the horns considered a symbol of shame or humilation? In modern America, it’s generally assumed that devil horns are representative of Satanism, Megadeth and abortion clinics. Rome-based correspondent, Viola, provides more context:

The etymology has to do with being cheated on by your partner and having everybody see it but you. It’s the stuff that you have on top of your head, which is invisible to you but obvious and clear to everyone around you.

So it’s like a tweet that everyone finds hilarious but gets no favs or RTs? I think I got it. Skip to the two-minute mark below and enjoy the rest of your bit linguistics course for the day:

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