Italians on Italians
Beyond Toscano

When the expressive are over-expressive

When the expressive are over-expressive
It’s fair to say the Italians are a very expressive nation. But even in Italy, sometimes people can go too far. And in Florence, a renaissance city with more than its fair share of overly flamboyant types, they have an expression for it: ‘fare i salemelecchi’.
What do we mean by ‘overly expressive?’ Well, in the modern world, it can seem most peculiar to stand on ceremony. Extreme politeness, flattery and ceremonial greetings like bowing and curtseying  were all well and good in their time, but today, they seem distinctly out of place (unless used for comedy value).
The phrase fare i salemelecchi itself comes from the Islamic ‘alait salam’ meaning ‘peace upon you’. It’s a beautiful sentiment in Islam, but translated to English, it seems overly formal and a little over the top. After all, why offer the blessing of peace, when all you really want to say is “Hey, how ya doin’?”.