Friday, April 07, 2006

Justice Scalia Gives the Finger? A Picture Speaks a Thousand Words

Justice Antonin Scalia and his "gesture" making the news. Here it is ... captured on film. Go HERE to see the photo in the Boston Herald. Some say it's Sicilian for F*** you, and Scalia made this clear by saying, at the same time, "Vaffanculo."

Others say he simply said, "That's Sicilian."

Now, scrambling for a position, Scalia cites the book The Italians, and says it's Sician for "I wouldn't know" or "I could care less" or "Leave me out."

Experts interviewed disagree. "There is no answer to ‘what it really means,’ because those gestures have different meanings in different locations, even in neighbouring locations,” said Janet Bavelas, a University of Victoria, British Columbia, psychologist who has studied human gestures.

David B. Givens of the Center for Nonverbal Studies agrees, saying the gesture typically means “I don’t know” in Portugal, “No!” in Naples, “You are lying” in Greece and “I don’t give a damn” in northern Italy, France and Tunisia.

The Sopranos stars are also divided - read about it here: .


So there you have it folks. We keep reading that 90% of communication is verbal, and that when you're confused between the two, go with the nonverbal. This is the only photo I've seen. Since we can't be sure what the gesture means, of what he actually said, and even then, I'd want to form my own opinion (like tone of voice), I keep going back to the photo to look at the eyes -- which of course you can't see.

If you'd been there, and if you had good EQ, you would be able to tell. Good EQ in this case, would mean - being able to read nonverbals (like tone of voice, eye contact, cheek muscles [was he being somewhat jovial?], his stance and posture, and also your own ability to reality-test. It's something one might not be able to be objective about.


Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia was worshiping at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross at a special Mass for lawyers when this photo was snapped by a photojournalist named Smith. He snapped the photo just as a reporter was asking Scalia how he responded to critics who might question his impartiality as a judge given his public worship.

The gesture is on film. Reports vary as to whether Scalia accompanied it with "Vaffancula" (guess what that means) or "That's Sicilian."

However, the photographer reports: "The judge paused for a second, then looked directly into my lens and said, 'To my critics, I say 'Vaffanculo,'" punctuating the comment by flicking his right hand out from under his chin."

The Italian phrase means about what you think it means.

Smith says Scalia knew immediately he'd made a mistake because he said, "You aren't going to print that are you?"

Scrambling for a positiion, Scalia now denies the gesture is obscene, and cites Luigi Barzini's book The Italians wherein "the extended fingers of one hand moving slowly back and forth under the raised chin means "I could care less" or "It's no business of mine" or "Count me out."

It is also known as the kiss-off gesture.

What's your take on this? Let me know - .

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