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What did the number 90 really mean to the Italians?

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Posted 11 March 2006 by glennwahlert

G'day all. Somewhere on this site there's an old postcard showing British WWII ships making the number '90' with their wake while Italian aircraft attack. The caption states that '90' means fear. Can anyone confirm this?
I'm doing some research on the Australian part of Op COMPASS.
Thanx, Glenn

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Posted 11 March 2006 by Lupo Solitario

correct: "fear is 90" as an Italian old motto says (I don't know if you know what is lotto...)

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Posted 13 March 2006 by Joseph Salemi

In the game of lotto as played in Italy (similar to what we in America call "Bingo") all of the numbers from 1 to 99 have nicknames. When a number is picked out of the bag, the number is called and its nickname is also given. This makes the game of lotto more interesting, and it serves as a mnemonic device.

My grandfather knew all of the numbers' nicknames by heart, and when I was child I loved hearing him call them out when we played lotto at home. I remember a few, but the funniest was 88: L'ugghiuni di Papa ("The Pope's Balls").

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Posted 13 March 2006 by Tankredi

So 90 stands simply for fear (paura?).
Can anyone explain the coherence?

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Posted 13 March 2006 by Joseph Salemi

There is no coherence. The associations are purely arbitrary. Someone in the past decided that 90 represented "fear," and that's that.

Don't look for connections where there aren't any. That's the job of academic theorists.

In the past, the Italians published a series of "dream-books" which purported to give you the numbers associated with whatever persons or places or things you might have seen in a dream. You could then bet those numbers in the state lottery. The books were very popular, and I suppose that many people used them in placing their lottery bets. This also helps to explain why numbers are associated with things and ideas in Italy.

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Posted 13 March 2006 by Gian

There is no coherence. The associations are purely arbitrary. Someone in the past decided that 90 represented "fear," and that's that.

Don't look for connections where there aren't any. That's the job of academic theorists.

In the past, the Italians published a series of "dream-books" which purported to give you the numbers associated with whatever persons or places or things you might have seen in a dream. You could then bet those numbers in the state lottery. The books were very popular, and I suppose that many people used them in placing their lottery bets. This also helps to explain why numbers are associated with things and ideas in Italy.

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Posted 14 March 2006 by Joseph Salemi

I have seen two versions of this dream-book. One was an old edition from the 1920s, and another was a later paperback version from the early 1950s. They seem to have been popular in the Italian neighborhoods of American cities, where they were used to find out lucky numbers to bet on in the illegal "numbers racket," which was run by the Mafia. The "numbers racket" was a game wherein you would bet on the last three figures that were published concerning the total amount of money wagered at a particular racetrack on a certain day. It could be anything from 000 to 999, so the odds against winning were very great.

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Posted 14 March 2006 by FB

Joseph Salemi said:
There is no coherence. The associations are purely arbitrary. Someone in the past decided that 90 represented "fear," and that's that.

Don't look for connections where there aren't any. That's the job of academic theorists.

In the past, the Italians published a series of "dream-books" which purported to give you the numbers associated with whatever persons or places or things you might have seen in a dream. You could then bet those numbers in the state lottery. The books were very popular, and I suppose that many people used them in placing their lottery bets. This also helps to explain why numbers are associated with things and ideas in Italy.
Yes and no.

In "la paura fa 90" (fear is 90, or sums up to 90) one could read, as someone told me years ago, that if 100 is the result you want to obtain from someone, his having fear takes you to level 90 thus leaving you with only 10 in order to accomplish your mission.

Other numbers in lotto that I remember are:

77 = Women's leg (this one is graphical)

33 = Christ's years (his age)

Best regards

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Posted 15 March 2006 by Joseph Salemi

That explanation of 90 as the number for fear is what in philology would be called an example of "folk etymology." It is something made up after the fact to give a plausible meaning to an established verbal practice. Another example would be to say that the word "divino" comes from the phrase "di vino," because when you drink wine you feel like a god. It is a completely bogus idea.

But it is true that some of the number nicknames do have an explanation (33 as "L'anni di Christo" being a good example, since according to tradition Chrsit lived only 33 years). Despite these few exceptions, the great bulk of the number nicknames are purely arbitrary.
 

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Posted 20 March 2006 by marpo

"La paura fa'90 !" Fear is 90. It is due to the 'smorfia' cabalist
code for the popular Italian public play named LOTTO, a sort of
'Bingo'.
All the numbers from 1 up to 90 are coded in the 'smorfia',
so for example some numbers with their meaning:
70= British people
7 = a German
40= warrior
76= warriors
27= fake
8= patriot
33= the years of Christ
and so on to~~....
There are 35,000 words and phrases in the Italian language,
that you can associate to the 90 numbers of LOTTO.

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Posted 25 July 2006 by Gian

My grandfather knew all of the numbers' nicknames by heart, and when I was child I loved hearing him call them out when we played lotto at home. I remember a few, but the funniest was 88: L'ugghiuni di Papa ("The Pope's Balls"
).
That reminds me of the mess kicked up by the goalkeeper Buffon years ago when he decided to wear a cap with the number 88. Italian Jews got very angry, because they mistook it for a Neo-Nazi code message: 88=H.H., that is, Heil Hitler. In fact, the number stood for "double testicles" as Buffon would later explain. :lol:

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Posted 25 July 2006 by Joseph Salemi

That's really funny!

The number 88 has another connection to Nazi Germany. No American soldier from the European theater in World War II will ever forget what a German "88" gun could do.

This entire business of number symbolism reminds me of the use of "pro-signs" in the American military. Does anybody remember them? The use of "pro-signs" (numbers with a recognized but unexpresed meaning) was tolerated as a way for everybody to let off steam without getting into trouble for insubordination.

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Posted 26 July 2006 by Gian

No American soldier from the European theater in World War II will ever forget what a German "88" gun could do.
Oh yes, and German gunners were notoriously very very accurate, but I'd say the luckiest GIs of all were the pilots, who could take back home their damaged crafts in most cases - save for direct hits.

"Bigger bursts and blacker too/88's the Flak for you!"


This entire business of number symbolism reminds me of the use of "pro-signs" in the American military. Does anybody remember them? The use of "pro-signs" (numbers with a recognized but unexpresed meaning) was tolerated as a way for everybody to let off steam without getting into trouble for insubordination.
I thought they only existed in Morse code (such as SK and SOS) or radio-telephony ("over"); didn't know they might be related to numbers.

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Posted 27 July 2006 by Joseph Salemi

The "pro-signs" that I am referring to were totally unofficial. You would see them on a sergeant's desk, or on the wall of someone's office, or anyplace else where they could be seen publicly. It was just a number, in large type. Everyone knew exactly what it meant. For example, the number 22 meant this:

""Pardon me, sir, but you seem to have mistaken me for someone who actually gives a shit."

If some stupid young lieutenant came to you with a pointless problem or some meaningless trivia, you would simply glance vaguely in the direction of the pro-sign that said "22". He got the message.

I've done some digging, and found an article on the question of military pro-signs. The piece is by Dan Cragg, and it is titled "A Brief Survey of Some Unofficial Prosigns Used by the United States Armed Forces." It appeared in the Winter 1980 issue of MALEDICTA (Volume IV, Number 2), pages 167 - 173.

Cragg says that "prosign" is short for "procedure sign," which means a number or set of characters and numbers used to express a standard meaning. They are used in the military to save time. The most common one is "Ten-Four," which even civilians are familiar with. Unofficial pro-signs are meant to express things that can never be said out loud in the military.

Cragg is a retired military man who spent over 20 years in the service. His article gives a great many pro-signs, so I can't possibly list them all here. But I'll offer a few:

27: "I didn't design this f---ing thing, I just installed the motherf---er."
(Used when someone complains that a piece of equipment doesn't function properly).

36: "Oh joy, oh f---ing rapture."
(Used when some idiot comes to you in a state of brainless enthusiam over something).

29: "I hope that son-of-a-bitch dies of the drizzling shits."
(Used when someone asks your opinion about an officer whom you don't like).

18: "F--k you; a strong letter follows."
(Used to show utter contempt for someone or something).

49: "Where the f--k is my drink?"
(Used in military clubs when you don't get served quickly).

46: "This war is over--who can we advise next?"
(Used in the years 1974-76 when Vietnam was falling to the Communists; it was the professional soldier's way of expressing contempt for the poor way in which the war was run).
 
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