"O. K." sign

GSCole gscole at ARK.SHIP.EDU
Thu Nov 2 23:13:52 UTC 2000

OK, I should have asked my student just where it was, in his many
travels, that he was informed that our finger gesture of OK was the
equivalent of an obscene gesture.  My initial presumption does not
appear to be OK.

Dennis' comments caused me to wonder why I hadn't earlier pursued the
'hand gestures' topic with some of my colleagues.  Years ago, in Korea,
I'd learned that the U.S. good-bye wave was akin to the Korean gesture
for 'come here.'  That misunderstanding caused a minor problem on a DMZ
patrol.  I don't doubt that there are other gestures, however subtle,
that leave room for misunderstanding.

I sought some clarification from Roger E. Axtell's -- Gestures: The Do's
and Taboos of Body Language Around the World, as published by John Wiley
& Sons in 1991.  The eyelid pull, as noted in Doug's question, is among
the many gestures discussed in the book.

Axtell has a couple of pages with information on the 'O.K. sign'.  He
closes one section with the statement that "Better, perhaps, to quickly
learn the words in the local language for 'Yes' and 'Fine' and keep your
hands at your side.  Elsewhere, in the book, he notes that the OK sign
is likely to be an insult of some sort in:  Malta, Sardinia, Greece,
Brazil, Tunisia, Italy, Turkey, the Soviet Union, and Paraguay.

A web site that contains some of the Axtell information is:

Central and South American gestures at:

Other, web sites that present some info:

George S. Cole   gscole at ark.ship.edu
Shippensburg University

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