Today I learned an Italian idiom for wishing someone good luck that struck me as rather intriguing.
The phrase In bocca al lupo literally means “into the wolf’s mouth.”
The common reply on being wished good luck in this way is crepi il lupo – may the wolf die, or simply Crepi! meaning “May it die!”
The superstition embedded in such idiomatic phrases is that it is bad luck to wish someone good luck directly.
It is amusing to consider the ways in which presuming the worst can be a way of actually hoping for the best.
The Italian who taught me this idiom said that this mentality is quite deeply embedded in the culture. For example, before going rock climbing with some of his Mexican friends recently, he suggested to them that they would all be in the news after the trip having fallen off of the cliffs to their deaths.
I’m thankful to a friend who reminded me that today is the feast day of St. Gianna Beretta Molla and who, accordingly, suggested that I devote today’s post to her.
Gianna was an Italian Catholic pediatrician and mother of four. She is known for refusing life-saving medical interventions that would have resulted in the death of her fourth child with whom she was pregnant at the time.
While it would have been morally licit for her to opt for the interventions in an attempt to save her own life, since the loss of her child would have been wholly unintended and inadvertent, Gianna was willing to die in order that her unborn child might live.
How someone comes to such a decision with faith and courage is almost never momentary happenstance. As John Paul II put it– that Gianna knew how to offer her life as a sacrifice was the crowning of an exemplary existence.
Among my favourite sites to visit when travelling anywhere are the cemeteries. A couple years ago, I visited the Campo Verano cemetery in Rome to seek out a particular grave. One of the things I remember most is the pamphlet given to visitors to facilitate a self-guided walking tour of the cemetery. The pamphlet was in several languages and in Italian there was a heading that said, tombe delle protagoniste. Wow, I thought: tombs of the protagonists! Such a heading is probably simply rendered into English as “famous tombs”, but this idea of a cemetery having leading characters thrilled me. As I walked throughout the cemetery, I thought about the major and minor characters, the settings, the rising actions in world affairs corresponding to the dates inscribed upon tombstones. The Italian wording filled my imagination with a sense of drama and excitement.