Somewhat off- topic

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at YAHOO.COM
Wed Feb 2 00:18:31 UTC 2005

There's Desmond Morris's "Gestures, Their Origin and Distribution" (N.Y.: Stein & Day, 1979), but I thought it was built on shaky foundations.

For example, Morris claims that Pantagruel gives someone the English "two-finger Vee" gesture (*not* the Victory sign, of course).  When I checked the passage in Rabelais, it seemed pretty clear that the gesture involved simply pointing two fingers at the victim, in the midst of other cryptic clowning, with no detectable implication that this perfromance much resembled or meant the same as the modern gesture.

Geoffrey C.Ward's "Baseball: An Illustrated History" (N.Y.: Knopf, 1994), accompanying the Ken Burns PBS series, has a team photo showing star pitcher Charley "Old Hoss" Radbourne (described on the Net as a "cantankerous man with a drinking problem") subtly but seemingly unmistakably "giving the finger" to the camerman ca1889.  Funk & Wagnalls actually included
the phrase not long after, with an innocent but relevant definition. Make of it what you will.


Barnhart <barnhart at HIGHLANDS.COM> wrote:
---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
Sender: American Dialect Society
Poster: Barnhart
Subject: Somewhat off- topic

This query is somewhat off-topic of dialect. Is there a history of
gestures (e.g. middle-fingering and finger wagging [often accompanied by
tsk-tsking])? I'm sure the mummy in The Mummy Returns is anachronizing
when he wags his finger at the young boy. The same may be true of Walter
Eckland (in Father Goose, a movie set in WWII) who is reported to have
used a gesture of disgust and frustration by the harbour masters lackey.


barnhart at

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