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What is the difference between these two gestures:

  1. tips of fingers and tip of thumb together on one hand, pointing upwards, often with an up-and-down movement (i.e. the classic "Che vuoi?" gesture)

  2. tips of fingers of left hand lightly touching those of right hand, with the tips of the thumb of each hand also touching (separately), with an up-and-down movement

It seems to me that the two gestures are very similar, and all I can observe is that the first gesture is more aggressive. How should they be used?

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    I'm not sure it's a question about the Italian language. The second gesture is ti prego! in pejorative sense: ma per favore!
    – egreg
    Aug 6 '14 at 20:08
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    they're Italian gestures aren't they?, I think they're part of the language as much as intonation, body language, and what have you, and they're certainly specific to Italian
    – blah
    Aug 6 '14 at 21:25
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    The question is perfectly fine, every language may have its own gesture system, and everybody knows Italians do use hand gesture a lot.
    – martina
    Aug 7 '14 at 7:02
  • I disagree; in my opinion, this question asks about an aspect of the Italian culture which is "language-agnostic", so to speak. Therefore, I believe that strictly speaking this question is not on topic. Aug 8 '14 at 8:01
  • @Giulio Muscarello: how is it language agnostic? Most people outside of Italy do not understand many Italian gestures.
    – nico
    Aug 8 '14 at 15:29
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The second one is something like "oh, please! Come on! Don't you get what you're saying is just nonsense?"
Unite hands, like in a prayer, and make the same up-and-down movement is much like a weaker version.
The first one you're talking about can have the same meaning as the second one. In this case you usually tilt your head to the right (if you've used the right hand), and you give the other person a look that speaks volumes (oh, please, are you listening to yourself?!)

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Your observation is correct: the first gesture carries an aggressive feel, whereas the second one is more apt to a lecture, specifically a telling-off. However, I think there is also a subtle difference in meaning.

If we were to "translate" the first gesture into words, the result would be akin to either "che vuoi?" o "ma cosa dici?", in an aggressive tone: respectively, you're displaying your annoyment with the other person and "mocking" them for making a statement you deem to be fake.

The second one, instead, would sound more like:

  • "ma per favore", that is, "come on! [That's obviously false!]";
  • "I'm disappointed with what I'm talking about, I can't stand it" - this is how you would translate it, when a person is complaining about something, or lecturing you.

Finally, I believe the first gesture is more typical of southern regions, but don't quote me on that.

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  • I see someone downvoted this answer; mind explaining your reasons? Aug 14 '14 at 10:17
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tips of fingers and tip of thumb together on one hand, pointing upwards, often with an up-and-down movement

tips of fingers of left hand lightly touching those of right hand, with the tips of the thumb of each hand also touching (separately), with an up-and-down movement

Giusto una precisazione:

nel primo caso, il movimento di una mano (di solito la destra) non è verticale ma indietro-avanti con una leggera rotazione del polso. Il movimento, inoltre, è rapido, secco e si ripete solo una/due volte. Questo gesto non è aggressivo, dipende dall'espressione del volto, che può indicare sorpresa (con la fronte aggrottata): "what are you looking for?","mind your f business"*, scherno (con un ghigno o risolino): "who asked your opinion?" o risentimento/minaccia con un cipiglio , un secco scuotimento del capo etc.: "are you looking for trouble?"

nel secondo caso il movimento delle mani è più o meno lento (= mi fai cadere le braccia!), e il capo si piega in giù o lateralmente: "what the f are you talking about?"*

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