"O. K." sign

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Thu Nov 2 18:17:52 UTC 2000

>I'm presuming that whomever is offended at the 3-ring/OK sign is
>offended because that gesture is the equivalent, in their culture, of
>the raised middle finger in much of 'U.S. culture'.
>Several years ago, one of my students from an Asian country asked why a
>beer commercial ended with the guy, in the ad, making the (OK) sign
>after taking a sip of beer.  He had thought that U.S. TV was
>conservative, and was surprised to see such a gesture in one of our TV

This is an interesting topic. Can someone direct me to a Web-site giving a
large list of gestures? Or to a book?

I have heard of the gesture with the thumb between the forefinger and
middle finger of the closed fist -- isn't this the one called "the fig"?
I've also heard of the 'OK' sign being an equivalent obscene gesture
somewhere. Somebody once told me that a two-finger salute (forefinger +
middle finger) like a reversed 'peace sign' or 'victory sign' is used in
Britain like the single upraised middle finger is in the US and elsewhere.

And what about the finger pulling down the lower eyelid? Or the (forefinger
+ little finger) salute? Or the finger to the side of the nose? I can't say
exactly what these mean right now.

I note that during my misspent youth in the US I sometimes encountered the
'OK' sign with the hand turned upside-down, as if one were presenting a
cylindrical object end-on; this was used with an obvious obscene sense
between males, but usually humorously, sometimes accompanied by some remark
(I found "Speak into the microphone, please" rather amusing).

In London about 10 years ago, a kind UK native filled me in on some current
British culture, including the 'OK' sign formed very close to the forehead
or temple to mean "dickhead" -- apparently used in traffic particularly.

-- Doug Wilson

More information about the Ads-l mailing list