24 - Guainella

Episode XXIV


(gwaa – ee – NEL – la)

The guainella is a terrible hobby that many scugnizzi share: two rival bands of scugnizzi meet in a common, designated place, and start throwing rocks, sticks and other debris one to the other. In principle, the word “guainella” was simply a battle cry, but then it metonymically came to identify this bloody sport.

The terrible guainella is a sight to behold: hordes of screaming boys throwing rocks and stones one to the other with clear the aim to hurt, to maim, to mar their enemy, bloody ambushes that end only when one of the two sides is routed, the scugnizzi black and blue with bruises and pains. The main projectiles are stones (and indeed, a synonym for the word is petriata, literally “stoning”), but everything can be used, provided that it can be thrown against the other boys.

The etymology of the word is uncertain: the most credited version is that the term comes from the Greek word ainella, meaning “chaste”, “pure”. The reason for this strange derivation is that in origin, the guainella was not fought with rocks and stones, but with elastic and flexible clubs taken from willows: these sticks were called ainelle because the common folk thought that their juice, if consumed, would bring chastity and purity. So the battle cry Ainella! Ainella! would then signify To the arms! Arm yourselves with clubs!; later, the term would be turned into the current guainella, which then widened its spectrum to include the battle between the rival gangs of scugnizzi with whatever the city offered to their hands: first with wooden sticks, then with rocks.



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