Tuesday, January 15, 2013

The Horned Man

"A horned man's a monster and a beast" (Othello 4.1.62)

One of my English literature A Level texts was Shakespeare's Othello. Every time I hear the word 'cornuto' it takes me back to a lesson where the teacher had to explain to us why Othello saw himself as having pair of horns on his head when he suspected that his wife, Desdemona, was cheating on him. For some reason or other it stuck in my mind. It was a strange image that I'd never come across before, but now it's something I hear almost on a daily basis. I find it very interesting that what I still see as a piece of Shakespearian imagery has managed to survive from his time, and lives in modern Italian - that of the cornuto, the horned man. To put it simply, if your partner is cheating on you, it makes you a cornuto, or a cornuta if you're a woman. It's used in colloquial language, and there's a verb for it too, cornificare, which means ' to cheat on'. It's also used as an insult, a favourite of Italian drivers and football fans (the horned man in question at football matches being the referee, obviously.) There's also a gesture associated with the insult, so if you want to save your breath make your hand into a fist and stick your index and pinkie finger up. Perfect if an Italian driver gets in your way!


Anonymous said...

in veneto "cornuto" is "becco"!!! ahaahaah ;) SANDRA ;)

Nerys said...

Ahahahah! Ciao Sandra!!

Mark D said...

Hi Nerys - the English translation is "cuckold" although hardly ever gets used these days.
(I heard you mentioned on Radio Deejay the other day..in another context of course)

Nerys said...

Ciao Mark! Yes, I probably should've mentioned that ;) (Did you? Fantastic!)