Saturday, October 19th, 2019
Nameday of Cleopatra, Kleopatra, Patra, Patroula, Cleo, Felix

The Philly Greek-Stake Blog

Throwing the Na!

Throwing the Na!

Photo: SpirosK photography

Na! You know what that means. It’s the word that supplements that hand gesture the Greeks use that says it all… your stupid, take this, forget about it, or, you’re a (fill in the blank). Different nationalities have different ways of expressing these feelings… the Italians with the flick of a hand under the chin, or the Americans flipping the bird, but the Greeks and Na, are unique. And it just seems so natural… doesn’t it?

I have read that this gesture is actually called “moutza” or “mountza” and you say the word, Na, to accompany the hand gesture. We just always called it, “throwing the Na”. What is fascinating is that they think they know how this was started and it is traced back to ancient times as a curse. It was called “faskeloma”. Later, the named changed to “moutza” during the time the Byzantium penal code was enacted. At that time, a convicted criminal was chained and paraded around town sitting on a donkey facing the rear with his face smeared with cinder, which the cinder was called, what else… “moutzos”. When applying it to the criminal’s face, one put it on their palm, extended the fingers and then wiped it on the criminal’s face. Giving someone the open hand, fingers spread, was equivalent to spreading the “moutzos” on their face therefore an insult (see Wikipedia for that history lesson). To make it easier, we will just call it the “Na”.

I have given the Na and I have been the recipient of the Na, but over the years I have witnessed a decline in the Na, especially among our young who were born in North America. It somehow has lost its importance or sting and they truly do not appreciate its value as a tool in the art of communication – or, “Na-ing”. With all of their modern gadgets, and abbreviations of the written word (i.e. lol, bff, btw), the young have lost the art of insulting. In fact, they just type an emoji face with a frown. Oh, that hurts so much. Wake up young people… there is a whole world of insults out there just waiting for you!

For purposes of this blog… and because it sounds good, the person giving the Na, we will call, the “Na-or” and the person receiving, we will call, the “Na-ee”. To give the Na, one “throws” it as in “Throwing the Na”.

As many of you Na aficionados know, there are different types of the Na. Here are a few basic ones. There is the “Traditional Na” where you extend your hand, palm facing out, and extend your five figures, basically saying to the other person, “You’re an idiot”. Another version of this is the “Double Traditional,” where you do the same thing with both hands. Here, the gesture means, “You’re a real idiot”. Of course, there is other body language that may accompany the Na. If you give the Na and bob your head a little, with a smirk on your face, that’s more of a friendlier or joking Na given to a friend who did something idiotic.

There is also the “Lazy Na”. This is usually given between friends who are having an argument or one does something outlandish and throws a quick Na, but only uses the thumb, index finger, and middle finger and not the full hand. The hand and fingers are usually limp and not rigid. When thrown, you usually keep it in the air a few seconds longer than the Traditional Na, enough time for your friend to shake his head and throw a “Reverse Lazy Na” back to you, accompanied by a few choice Greek insulting words that we won’t repeat, and your both laughing.

Now we move into the more serious Na-ing. There is the “Double Back-hand Na”. Here, the Na-or gives the Traditional Na but takes his other hand and slaps the back of the outstretched hand… this is where the insults become more serious. Using the Double Back-hand is equivalent to an American flipping a quick bird – serious but not too serious. Now, should you want to really insult someone, the Na-or takes both hands and throws the Na over a shoulder… we’re talking serious Na-ing. This is known as the “Shoveling Na”. Some have improvised and instead of throwing the Na over the shoulder, they have thrown it under a leg, underhand, and the back. This is basically saying that whatever the Na-ee did, it’s so stupid you don’t even deserve a Traditional Na.

There is also “The Full Monty Na”. Here you combine everything… Traditional, Double Back-hand and Shoveling Nas. By throwing The Full Monty Na, it is evident that you are so disgusted with the Na-ee, that the Na-or gives him a full blast. Should the Na-ee respond in kind and become the Re-Na-or, this could be trouble and everyone should head for the hills. Na-or, Na-ee, Re-Na-or, etc… you need a playbook to keep track!

Throwing a Na to a Greek in Greece may get you killed… or at the very least, verbally attacked with words that the average Greek-American would not understand… or a whack with a pocketbook from an old Yiayia. The best Throwing of the Na that I have seen is a photo of demonstrators Throwing the Na in unison to the Greek Parliament to show their opposition to the austerity measures.

I am announcing the first Throwing the Na Award, which will be given to a person or group of people who has done something so idiotic that it deserves a Na. And my first Throwing of the Na Award goes out to our own U.S. Congress and the President because of the games they played with the Fiscal Cliff. They said my taxes wouldn’t go up… they did. Oh well, congratulations to them and their award will be delivered to them.

Who do you think deserves the next “Throwing the Na Award?”

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14 Comments

  1. Tina O

    Another great piece Harry~

    Thanks for staring my morning off with a huge smile :-)

    • laura

      Throwing The Na Award to NY state for passing a law with out time for any one to read or comment on it.

  2. John Pogas

    Thanks Harry. I almost forgot about the power of the Na. Just used it (albeit virtually) with the Help Desk guy on the phone. It was very cathartic!

  3. Kathy

    Love it!

  4. Apostolos

    Oh, yeah, it really IS an art form! And you’re right: You do it to a passing taxi driver in Greece and you will hear a screech of wheels on the pavement, a driver door opening, and said taxi driver coming at you with full charge asking, “Ti eipes, re?!?” Just be careful with the Na… it really is NOT to be taken lightly…

  5. Pat

    I remember my mother not letting us show an open-hand 5 for the number 5 because she said it was disrespectful, that we were Na-ing! LOL. I also remember being told that by throwing the Na you were actually sending someone to Hell! Thoroughly enjoyed your article, especially the Grenglish! :)

  6. Patricia K

    Brings back memories! I MUST start using it again.

  7. Leonidas

    The current US Regime deserves the worst Mountza that 300,000,000 Americans can toss.

  8. XANTHI

    You have to love it. It is ‘US’ ( meaning Greeks) to a tee. And leave it to us to use it to mean so many different things. Rather special I think!!!

  9. Fr. Peter

    Tooo Funny! I love reading your blogs.

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