Why do they say: “I have legs that make me Giacomo Giacomo”?
Did you know that in different parts of Italy, it is common to say it when you have trembling legs?
Perhaps because of fear?
What is the origin of this curious expression?
It would seem that there is no particular theory, and this way of saying could have three different possible explanations.
1) The term derives – in an onomatopoeic way – from the creaking of knee joints (giac-giac) that slam against each other out of fear.
2) When the pilgrims went to the sanctuary of San Giacomo of Compostela (Santiago de Compostela) in Galicia, Spain, they were so tired that their painful knees invoked the saint to put an end to their suffering.
Furthermore, there is a widespread belief that San Giacomo was the one in charge of bringing the dying to heaven for whom “fare Giacomo” would mean “losing strength, dying” and hence “having legs that tremble.”
3) During the Hundred Years’ War, France exploded a revolt of peasants who protested for the tax burden to which they were subjected and for the continuous looting that they were forced to suffer.
The revolt was quickly put down, and the peasants were defeated and severely punished.
The rebels were nicknamed with contempt by the aristocratic “Jacques Bonhomme”, since they used to wear the “Jacque” that is a jacket reinforced with wire (the Italian term “giacca” comes from precisely “Jacque”).
Thus, the word that initially indicated the dress became used as a peasant disparaging, taking on the meaning of “simpleton” and then of “coward.“
From here, the expression “Giacomo-Giacomo” (Jacque-Jacque) to indicate the peasant’s knees that tremble with fear.
Interesting, isn’t it?