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Umarell (wikipedia.org)
161 points by paganel 5 months ago | hide | past | favorite | 37 comments

In 2015, the city of Riccione, approximately 130 kilometres (80 miles) southeast of Bologna, allocated an €11,000 budget to pay a wage to umarells to oversee worksites in the city – counting the number of trucks in and out to ensure materials were delivered/removed according to the receipts, and guarding against theft when the site was otherwise unattended.

This is brilliant. We should do more stuff like this -- acknowledge that it adds value, slip the person a few bucks.

Not to mention involving older people in active duties is great for their mental health.

True (I upvoted). The downside though in terms of being near a construction site is that particulate matter [0][1] (and even road based noise pollution [2]), is linked with cognitive decline.

[0] https://medicalxpress.com/news/2020-11-forest-cars-power-fac...

[1] https://www.studyfinds.org/young-people-brains-air-pollution...

[2] https://www.studyfinds.org/busy-roads-alzheimers-risk/

Seinfeld did this bit back in the 90's https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cbPqWI90maA

You can also buy a 3d printed desktop Umarell here: https://www.superstuff.it/prodotto/umarell/?lang=en


We have the same thing in Turkey, although without an exclusive name or word for it. I guess similar mediterranean cultures, perception of elderly etc. and many other factors create this phenomena.

But yeah, no idea why this has popped up on HN :D

Actually watching construction in Italy may seem very interesting. Where else in the world can you watch buildings from 300 A.D. close to classical and gothic architecture combined with modern engineering techniques?

Greece, France, Spain? Even some places in Germany, I think.

According to the OP, an umarell is someone who watches others doing work and offers unwanted advice.

I suspect there are quite a few umarells on HN ;-)

There's a great Seinfeld cold open about the magnetism men feel toward construction work:


This is also how my two year old likes to spend his time. What a charming idea, and how wonderful to see them embrace it in a productive way.

Old school youtube...like letsdig18 and dirt perfect

The best part is to buy one of them that look at you building your code everyday: https://www.amazon.it/Superstuff-Umarell-Arancione/dp/B07TWH...

I find the concept amazing.

Personally, I stay away from construction sites. Besides dangerous, they're loud and dusty.

Who wouldn't want to watch construction? It's the same drive that has me watch hours of machine shop videos, or other how it's made stuff. If it wasn't dangerous, and there were a machine shop with a picture window, I bet those same men would go watch the machinists when the weather was poor.

Or the baker, candlestick maker, etc.

I'm left wondering, why is this here? Why was it translated in English, even.

I think because it's a consistent pattern, so its causes may reveal something interesting about human nature or society.

Not the first time that I've looked for an article about Italian culture, and there's articles in multiple languages but not Italian.

I think that umarells are an interesting phenomenon. They sound like they were annoying construction workers (bikeshedding) but rather than treat them as a nuisance (loitering->fines or jail), a purpose was found: they get paid an honorarium for "jobs" most of us would find eyewateringly boring but provide value for the construction companies.

Well, they don't annoy workers, not that much. They may exchange some word, probably opinions on what's the best way to do the job, but they are mostly quiet and observing.

Because often software teams have one or two Umarells among the members.

It isn't rare to have teams consist exclusively of Umarells. Usually this is the result of evaporative cooling.

To attract lurker.

If you're lucky it elicites even some self-referential Statler and Waldorf comments.


This explains why YouTube channels like Andrew Camarata's [0] have a million plus subs. Something about watching people work is fascinating.

[0] https://www.youtube.com/c/AndrewCamarata/featured

Andrew does a special kind of work to be fair.

For the curious: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4De2tMjPRCE

I'd argue that this is an exception not the rule. Normally he's very practical and pragmatic. I aspire to be like him.

because it's hilarious

haha, it's crazy to see this on HN!! we really are in the best timeline.

So this is a global phenomenon? It's definitely a thing in my country.

Where are you from ?


You know, you are probably right statistically, although the true coefficient is biased (maybe in either direction) due to selection effects and societal endogeneity.

However, I always wonder, when people say things like "if you are a guy, if you are a gal" with such force and authority... what about the outliers, and what about the overlaps of these distributions?

I know a gal who loves nothing more than analyzing ongoing construction sites. I certainly know several who love to watch programming videos.

Wonder how that feels, when someone brings all the biotruths at ya, and you happen to sit at that point in the preference distribution where looking at technical going-ons is actually what you enjoy.

Like, how large is the percentage of people who literally have never met any woman who is genuinely interested in technical things, and feel totally comfortable making such absolute statements? Must be some good percentage, at least.

"I'm probably right statistically" - Please, let us try to accept the world as it is. Not as we would like it to be.

thank you!!

A strange thing about your comment, beyond it making easily verifiable claims without substantiating them, is that you focus on the gender of the spectators. You could have focused on their age, their posture, that they look at only construction and not other forms of public labor, or that this has a name in Italy and not elsewhere. Why the fascination with gender?

Well, you will have a hard time de-gendering "umarell", as it is - before and besides - this particularly popular use, nothing but a diminutive form of "uomo", i.e. "man".

The first few lines of the Wikipedia article:

>Umarell (Italian pronunciation: [umaˈrɛl]; modern revisitation of the Bolognese dialect word umarèl [umaˈrɛːl]) is a term in the Italo-Romance variety of Bologna referring specifically to men of retirement age who spend their time watching construction sites, especially roadworks – stereotypically with hands clasped behind their back and offering unwanted advice.[1] Its literal meaning is "little man" (also umarèin).[2] The term is employed as lighthearted mockery or self-deprecation.

Maybe it is not fair, but it is definitely intended as "male only" and as such very gender-oriented.

For the record, (from the facebook of Danilo Masotti, the writer that popularized the term), female "umarells" are documented to exist, though tagged as "extremely rare":


A great tactic to shut down strangers who you disagree at the bar or whatever: demand evidence for obvious claims. This actually has been verified, look into studies relating to how children react to toys whose apparent target audience is the opposite gender. And also look into the widely accepted phenomenon that men and women in developed countries tend to gravitate more towards occupations traditionally associated with their own genders, even when presented with other opportunities.

The source material is all about men. What's wrong with you?

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