Mala Figura (mah-luh-fig-ooh-da) is an Italian phrase that I asked Rocco to define:
First of all the term is mala figura. This is really a very central theme in Italian culture. A culture that has many "external" features i.e appearances or how things seem from the perspective of others. The easiest way to translate it is "bad appearance." Something that should be avoided at all cost lest one is taken for a "cafone." As an example, if you invite people over and realize that there is not enough dessert or if you go visit someone and do not bring enough dessert. If you go to a wedding and you realize that you have not put enough cash in the "busta." Going to a function and being under dressed or over dressed is a mala figura as is driving a old Cadillac. Italians like to impress others, it's in their blood, it's part of the fact that the whole national ethos requires acting. A nation of actors upon a stage. Whatever you do, never make a mala figura. If you invite people, always make food for an army and when you dress, always wear the best clothing etc. or else you will indeed make a mala figura. You get the picture. Love YD"