Reader ESM sent in a link to David Weigel, "Democrats Say They Have the Votes for Filibuster Reform, and for the 'Nuclear Option'", Slate 1/22/2013:
…even if you're a reformer, do you think there's ANY filibuster reform that wouldn't be interpeted by the Rand Paul-Mike Lee-Tim Scott-Ron Johnson quartet as the hi sign to "blow up the Senate"?
I'm curious about the use of "hi sign." I've heard the phrase spoken, but always understood it as "high sign." A quick search online didn't turn up any meaningful commentary, even of the speculative or anecdotal variety.
Merriam-Webster spells it "high sign" with the gloss: "a gesture used as a signal (as of approval or warning) — usually used in the phrase give the high sign". The OED gives the gloss "n. colloq. a surreptitious sign indicating that all is well or that the coast is clear". The AHD gives "A prearranged signal intended to warn or inform".
Texas’ motto is “Friendship,” and Texas’ highways cover more miles than any other state’s, and the intersection of these two facts is the hi sign, the laconic one-finger wave shared by rural travelers. In the days of the open range, when pioneers saw another wagon of lonely wayfarers on the trackless plains, they could always rein up and chat awhile. But we modern Texans travel 55 miles an hour—at the very least—and can barely slow down for a pit stop. Thus the hi sign was born. By using it, we convey our goodwill to our fellow drivers and reaffirm our reliance on each other during long trips across isolated country. The hi sign is strictly a highway courtesy, an automotive gesture developed for the modern age. A person on horse or on foot raises his whole hand, but the demands of travel on wheels dictate a specialized wave.
If Mr. Weigel has eggcorned high sign, he's not the first to take that step — here's a paragraph from Nellie Altamirano-Bustillos, The Gardens, 2005: