Indian sign (1895, 1897)

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Tue Apr 12 12:10:56 UTC 2005

We called this sign "donkey ears" in the '50s. It was used to make other kids look ridiculous. I never heard it called anything else or that it had any hoodoo power.


sagehen <sagehen at WESTELCOM.COM> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: sagehen
Subject: Re: Indian sign (1895, 1897)

>Good quotes. I suspect there's a pop cultural allusion here, but I don't
>know to what. Have always assumed it was some sort of magical "sign" or
>"Douglas G. Wilson" wrote:
>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender: American Dialect Society
>Poster: "Douglas G. Wilson"
>Subject: Indian sign (1895, 1897)
>What was the basis for "Indian sign"? A hand signal (as in 'Indian sign
>language')? A symbolic mark of some kind, for religious or magical purposes
>or maybe for trail-blazing? Does anybody know?
I wonder if anyone else on the list can confirm a hazy memory I have of
one use of what may be this sign. Fist closed, fore- & little fingers
extended, hand held at the back of the head to suggest "Indian" headdress.
I think it was called the "Indian sign." (It is basically the same as the
old European sign for cuckold,except for the position.) School-aged kids
(in Lincoln NE in the '30s &'40s) used this as a way of saying "bullshit"
without utterance. It might also have had other negative meanings.
A. Murie

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