How to Annoy a Sicilian

Despite their reputation for having a volcanic temperament, Sicilians are actually a phlegmatic bunch. I’m endlessly amazed by what they’ll put up with.

But, if you must, here are the Seven Secret ways to irritate a Sicilian from here to next Sunday.

On Monday, make fun of his white vest. I once tried this on Hubby, and then felt so guilty.

“It’s the shirt of health,” he explained in a huff, as he tucked it into his underpants carefully to keep his kidneys warm.

He has about 45 of them which The Godmother (My MIL) handed over to me as part of his wedding trousseau, along with an array of socks and underpants so vast we took out a loan for a second wardrobe.

On Tuesday, walk around his house in bare feet. All Sicilians KNOW that walking on tiles with bare feet leads to sudden death, and who wants a stiff to get rid of?

You can get extra mileage out of this one by gratefully accepting the slippers you are offered, putting them on, then reappearing from another room without them. Your Sicilian host will keep fetching them and bringing them back to you like a puppy.

On Wednesday, walk up to his stationary vehicle angled at at 45 degrees to the pavement and tell him you’ve “seen women park better than that.”

On Thursday, tamper with a classic Sicilian recipe. You’re not allowed to improvise in Sicilian cooking. The ingredients have been passed down for centuries and they may not be changed. When Jamie “Smell them lavly spices” Oliver came to film a cookery show in Sicily they almost assassinated him for adding garlic without authorisation.

No! You can’t have condiments!

It’s not just insulting the cook who taught you the recipe, but also insulting his Mamma who taught him the recipe, and his great-great-lots of greats-grandmother going back to about 900A.D. who learnt it directly from God. And we all know what self-respecting Sicilians must do to people who insult their Mamma.

On Friday, suddenly start talking English in an argument. You don’t have to think up anything menacing; his imagination will do all the work. If Sicilian schools ever start teaching English properly, we’ll have to learn some real Sicilian insults instead.

I had to use this when I pootled to a halt for a woman in the middle of a zebra crossing, and got rear-ended. Mr. Rear End denied all responsibility, and Mrs. Zebra sided with him! This kind of thing happens in Sicily, because they’re cousins, and you’re foreign.

I felt I had no choice but to recite Humpty Dumpty slowly, which produced a highly satisfactory attack of hyperventilating in both of them. I only stopped at “All the king’s men” because I feared Mr. Rear End might imminently go into cardiac arrest.

As I got back into my pleated car, I assured Mrs. Zebra I would accelerate at full velocity next time I saw her in the middle of the road.

On Saturday, ask if he’s in the Mafia. I still can’t believe some people actually do this. What about that tiny possibility that he really is in the Mafia?

On Sunday, describe absolutely anything Sicilian as “Ridiculous.” I discovered this “verbal kryptonite” by accident while doing a translation. Honestly, they can’t hear anything Sicilian called ridiculous, not even this:

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41 thoughts on “How to Annoy a Sicilian

    1. They can seem touchy, but I am always amazed by their patience. You can box them in by double parking and they don’t even murmur a word of grumble. They even laugh when people rip them off for money. They shrug stoically when the water and electricity get cut off both at once for days at a time.

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  1. It has taken Mrs Sensible 7 years to get used to me walking around the house in my bare feet…. I think she is amazed that I am still alive.

    My favorite way to wind up a Sicilian or any Italian is to tell them that there is no such illness as Cervicale, (cervicale is very dangerous illness that Italian get from either a warm or cold puff of air on the neck) and it is perfectly safe to go outside without a scarf wrapped tightly around your neck…

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      1. When I was staying with one of Mrs Sensible’s aunts in Syracuse Sicily. I tried to leave the house in shorts T shirt and flip flops, she went mad. She demanded I go and change and wear a scarf and my coat. I protested trying to explain it was hotter than a normal summers day in the UK….

        I lost the argument… gloves hat scarf and shoes were worn

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  2. Oh, those vests. The French have them too, they’re called “Marcels”. The tucking of vests into knickers is a constant source of amusement for me – bringing us to a point you don’t mention but works for Frenchmen : accuse them of being a real Mummy’s boy. It drives mine up the wall. Gnark gnark gnark.
    I see that it is dangerous to stop for pedestrians in Italy too… I will keep the Humpy Dumpty solution in mind for future use 🙂

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    1. It never ceases to amaze me hearing all the similarities you point out between Italians and Frenchmen.
      Funny the Frogs don’t like being called Mummy’s boys though – the Italians just don’t seem to care. In fact I think some of them may secretly take it as a compliment 😉 If you still live with Mamma when you’re 40 I suppose it’s hard to argue with it!

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  3. I am forever buying socks for my three (grown) boys. I guess it is in my DNA? And the coat and scarf thing? I’ve been to Sicily in almost every month. I have never felt like I needed a coat and scarf, much less a hat and gloves! Being from NYC, I often have one with me when I arrive, but it hangs on the hook during my stays….and I bear the brunt of constant berating for not wearing it!
    I love your sense of humor. You make me laugh. Thanks.

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    1. I’m glad you enjoy all my silliness!
      I used to be the same, walking about in a T shirt when the Sicilians were in their fleeces and anoraks. It’s shocking how much I have acclimatised – now I’m the one who feels colder than anyone else!!

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    1. Well, if it were a list about me it could run into the hundreds. You wouldn’t believe how many things I can get worked up about. The Sicilians constantly have to tell me to calm down!!!
      But that’s a great idea: I wonder what would go on the top ten list for Brits?
      1. Not making a cup of tea properly – that would be everybody’s number one I am sure!
      What else would you add?

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  4. Oh the bare feet! I think I have accidentaly offended more than a few Italians by walking around their houses with no shoes or socks on. And then I go out with wet hair and I realise it’s lucky I have neither Italian relatives nor enough Italian language skills to understand any remarks even being thought my way

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  5. I don’t complain about the cervicale pain that my husband suffersand he doesn’t complain when I say that am suffering from “cut body” a latin american disease that is best described as: Frequent and mild condition of unknown ethnology. Symptoms include but are not limited to: Fatigue lack of energy and chronic whining. So we both suffer from made up maladies

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    1. Oh no!!! I wish you hadn’t told me that because now I realise that I suffer not only from “cervicale” but from “cut body” as well!! I also suffer from having a “chill on my kidneys” from time to time, a disease that only exists in Italy.
      Thank goodness I don’t have the imaginary German illness known as “hyper acitidy” where your body becomes too acidic – this can cause literally any symptom in the medical books and there is no cure. If I spend too much time chatting to Germans I might develop that too.

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  6. I’m a second generation Sicilian woman, and I’ve inherited all those abilities to be annoyed. And probably more than that, as my Romano-Napoletano husband will tell you. Don’t make comments about what I’m wearing or cooking, and don’t ask if my family is in the Mafia. I’m not polite in my answers.

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  7. Wonderful. We need to get an Italian to do a similar one on the British. I’ll have to ask my husband tonight… no 1. insulting the queen for no reason no2. give them constant weight updates -ooh have you put on a little weight? no 3. patronise them while they are cooking…

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    1. Ah yes, I would add
      4: Say British food is awful, then admit you’ve never actually tried it.
      5: Accept a really good quality cup of tea then say you want LEMON in it instead of MILK
      6. Keep asking “why don’t you have mixer taps in England?” …. (To which I always answer “Don’t know, don’t care, ask a plumber”)

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    1. I almost felt like buying a dog just so I could put those slippers on it!! 😉

      You know I’m always amazed by how harmoniously my Hubby and I live together. We almost never argue. I think we have too much of a sense of humour!!!

      And of course the other main secret to our marital bliss is that I always make sure his Shirts of Health are washed and ironed for when he needs them 😉

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  8. The Sicilian Vesters are clining to a custom de rigeur in the U.S. of the early 1900’s when it was clled an undershirt and worn religiously by all males of decent breeding beneath whatever shirt one could see. Universal heating, air conditioning and Hollywood buried it. Appearing in one today would get you identified as well, maybe Sicilian.

    Male reactions to female parking of vehicles appears to be a universal, probably based on genetics. (Admitting of course, of some exceptions. I am a coward.)

    In America, we would never think of asking a Siciliano of his Mafia connection; we have been assured by Hollywood that all are such, possibly excluding any imported Irish priests.

    In benighted America, a legal presumtion assigns guilt to any driver who hits from behind; it is (forgive please) automatic. The presence of one’s cousin, even on the bench in court, is unlikely to help. Might make for light punishment, though …

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  9. 🙂
    I think rear-enders are always guilty everywhere in the world except Sicily, where traffic rules are based entirely on who has more important connections!

    As for the “Sicilan Vesters” (I love that!!) I didn’t realise they were once universal. Does this mean they will also die out in Sicily if the Sicilian ever get decent heating systems? That would be as tragic as England losing the Queen or France dismantling the Eiffel Tower.

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    1. Ha haaa! I’ll work on it! I suspect a lot of it will involve hanging up the laundry “wrongly” and choppiong vegetables “wrongly” and cleaning the floor “wrongly” I’ve committed every crime in the book actually, I can get going on this article right away!!….. 😀

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  10. The white undershirt, worn sleeveless in summer and wool, full sleeved in winter as a child, and no arguments. Men wear/ wore the sleeveless or sleeved cotton TShirt under dress shirts. A friend refers to the sleeveless worn by her father in law as The Italian Smoking Jacket. She said he would come to the dinner table that way, which annoyed his wife. She countered by arriving at the table in her bra. Crazy.

    We have pictures of my father tending to an outside grill and cook’s hat, dressed in the sleeveless T.

    My mother would yell if I didn’t have a scarf on my head from Fall to Spring, and warn never go to bed with wet hair. Actually, when I did that, I would awaken with a stiff neck and be unable to raise my head off the pillow. Veronica, you have picked up on all the idiosyncracies passed down. One not mentioned, using the wrong pot for cooking. My mother would stand over me and tell me so.

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    1. I must have been oblivious to the “wrong pot” thing as I’m the worst person of all for fussing about this! Forssomeone who can’t actually cook you’d be amazed how precious I am about the kitchen equipment!! My MIL just rolls her eyes and carries on cooking!

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  11. I have an horrific name for the ‘Italian Vest’. My sister casually mentioned it in conversation and I was awestruck. It’s called a ‘wife-beater’ t- shirt.
    Now I don’t feel so bad; my ex Sicilian boyfriend, who I thought was a bit OC, was just being a Sicilian when he corrected me more than once on how to cut a lemon to get the most juice out of it.
    Thanks, I really enjoy your writing and sense of humor.

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    1. Ha haaaa! A friend in New Jersey told me that name a while ago, Isn’t it awful?

      I do hope you are cutting lemons properly! I shall have to go and tell my husband off for his negligence as he has NEVER remembered to tell me the secret. (Probably because he never lets me in the kitchen when he is cooking, I might spoil the recipe!)

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