Italian Word of the Day: Pernacchia (raspberry / Bronx cheer)

A raspberry or Bronx cheer – known as a pernacchia (feminine, plural: pernacchie) in Italian – is a derisive and vulgar sound, performed by blowing through pursed lips with the tongue to obtain a noise similar to that of flatulence.

/per·nàc·chia/

It derives from vernacchio which in turn can be traced back to the Latin vernaculus (meaning servile) and verna (meaning servant, slave). Presumably the association between blowing raspberries and slaves arose because it is the kind of vulgar sound you would expect the lower class to make.

Fare una pernacchia or spernacchiare is how you would say to blow a raspberry or to make a Bronx cheer. You can also say prendere qualcuno a pernacchie if your “raspberry blowing” is directed at someone.

Il bambino birichino ha fatto una pernacchia alla bambina.

The naughty boy blew a raspberry at the little girl.


Things get really interesting once we turn our attention to the Neapolitan dialect in which there exists the masculine form pernacchio. According to Neapolitans, pernacchio isn’t simply a dialectal variation on pernacchia; it is in fact a completely distinct kind of raspberry that varies in length, strength and modulation, in addition to being far more derisive.

You can watch Italian actor Eduardo di Filippo describe the true nature of the pernacchio and how it differs from the pernacchia in this classic scene taken from the film L’oro di Napoli (The Gold of Naples):

Pernacchia differs from linguaccia in that the latter simply involves the tongue sticking out without making any sound.

Mi ha fatto una linguaccia e poi delle pernacchie.

He stuck out his tongue at me and then blew a raspberry.


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