foreign gestures

In the US to show our utter disgust with another person, we have The Finger. You can read all the expert research on The Finger by checking out the Wikipedia entry here. The Finger is given by extending the middle finger, folding the others down, and showing the back of your hand at the offensive person in question. The Finger essentially means 'f*ck you' and is usually accompanied by a defiant facial expression.

an iconic image of Johnny Cash and his Finger

In the US we dont have equivalents. The Finger is pretty much the acme of defiance. Thanks to President Nixon, we all know the peace sign can be offensive to some, as well as the A-OK circular gesture. Still, we are only vaguely familiar with hand signals from around the world. For us, The Finger is the ultimate kiss-off. The Finger is so strong that I can count on one hand the times I've given the gesture--and they all occurred in a road rage scenario where my victim likely missed out on the full impact of my anger.

Imagine my surprise when I learned there is a variation on The Finger here in Ireland. A veritable twin brother to The Finger, behold the V-Sign! To American eyes, the V-Sign is just an innocuous number two. Innocent little numero 2.

Winny Churchill adeptly demonstrates the V-Sign

Although it began as an innocent sign meaning 'victory', it soon became a nefarious sign with just as much impact as The Finger. Our friends here in Ireland tell us that it is one-and-the-same with The Finger, although the V-Sign is much more popular.

Both hubs and myself have been struggling with this inappropriate hand gesture. Hubby originally found out about the V Sign in the classroom. His professor asked what time their next lecture was at and he held up the V-Sign for all the class to see. "Two o'clock," he said. "Same to you!" his lecturer announced. Hubs sat there stunned until consulting his nearest classmate and quickly apologizing to the professor after class.

I remember the significance of the V-Sign every time we step into a noisy pub and I order us two beers. The barkeep reacts first in disgust, which soon gives way to pity. The shame, the horror, the cultural idiosyncrasy! For the time being, we are trying to be more careful and stop saying FU to the entire country of Ireland. Until then, enjoy some reading about other hand gestures from around the world: 7 Innocent Gestures That Can Get You Killed Overseas
Vocab lesson:
"lecturer" = university professor
"uni" = university
"school" = primary school
"secondary school" = high school
"college" = can mean university OR high school in some countries, especially UK
 "after" = just did it, as in 'That eejit's after giving the V-Sign to to the bartender!'


  1. so how would you tell a bartender in a noisy bar that you wanted two beers?


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