The More You Know

Here’s the real reason people are still mad about the Pope’s anti-gay slur

Last week, Pope Francis used an offensive, anti-gay slur, for which he has since apologized. But the incident left a bad taste in peoples’ mouths, especially after the Pope seemed to go out of his way last November to make trans women feel honored in the Church. It wasn’t just the fact of the slur being said that rubbed people the wrong way: it was the deep, surprisingly violent history of the word he used.

If you’ve ever watched The Sopranos, you’re already familiar with the term “finocchio,” which means “fennel” in Italian. While the Pope’s slur of choice was “frociaggine,” according to one TikToker, the words might share a common origin. And that origin is quite gnarly indeed.

While some believe that the term “finocchio” came about because of the resemblance between a fennel plants “bulb” and a ball sac (similar to the British use of “bell end”), there’s actually a much darker reason for the word’s use.

“In medieval Italy,” the TikToker behind the @RainbowHistoryClass account explains, “particularly in Florence, homosexuality would get you burnt at the stake.”

So what did villagers do to mask the smell of human flesh? They would “scatter fennel everywhere” and hope that the vegetable’s strong, distinctive smell would help them forget that there was someone burning to death in the town square.

So yeah…no surprise why gay Italians would take serious issue with slurs like these being thrown around.

While the Pope has apologized and boasts a much more progressive track record than his predecessors, Italians are still reeling from the use of the slur and the violent history it calls up. So if you still feel a way about it, just know you’re not alone.

Don't forget to share:

Tags: History
Read More in Culture
The Latest on INTO