Semiotic lesson of the week

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According to the source ("Season’s greetings: Five-year-old girl gives audience middle finger for 20 minutes while starring as angel in nativity play", The Independent 12/17/2019),

Ella’s mother, Carla Bovingdon, 33, said she was thinking, “Oh god Ella, please stop”, but despite mouthing at her daughter to put her hands down, she ultimately had to let her get on with it.

Ms Bovingdon, who lives near Maldon, Essex, said: “It was so funny because she didn’t realise what she was doing.

“She likes to let me know if she’s at all injured, so she was basically trying to show me what she had done from across the room. It was the tiniest little hangnail as well.

“Then she put both her fingers up because she was trying to compare to see if both fingers were hurt.”



  1. Robert Coren said,

    December 26, 2019 @ 10:42 am

    I see this is in the UK; has the US convention of using the middle-finger for "fuck you" become commonplace there? My recollection is that the British equivalent is/was middle and index fingers raised in a V (back of the hand out, thereby distinguishing it from the
    V-for-victory" sign). And maybe it's an essential part of the gesture to flip the fingers from horizontal to vertical (hence to "flip someone off").

  2. Gali said,

    December 26, 2019 @ 11:36 am

    Like many points of American culture, it has not only been universal across the Anglosphere for many decades, but has by now pervaded most of the world. I can't speak to whether there are any letters to the Daily Mail complaining about this particular instance of Americanization, however.

  3. Michael Leddy said,

    December 26, 2019 @ 6:15 pm

    I remember a friend from Dublin: “Sometimes they make me so mad, I just want to go” — and she held up one fist, back of the hand facing out, index finger extended. As we figured out, she was trying for the Americanism, with the wrong finger.

  4. Gordon said,

    December 26, 2019 @ 10:04 pm

    @Robert Coren. I recall the two-finger flip being the standard obscene gesture till about the late seventies in Australia. Since then, the middle finger has been more usual.

  5. Robert said,

    December 27, 2019 @ 2:33 am

    @Robert Coren: The gesture is commonly understood, and also used, though I think the two-fingered version still predominates. One of the jokes from the film "Bean" from 1997 is that due to his naïveté, Mr Bean thinks the middle finger is the American translation of the thumbs-up gesture. This joke could only land successfully if the true meaning of the gesture was commonly understood at the time (it certainly was in my social circle).

    I think not knowing what it means would be almost as uncommon as not being aware that Americans use "ass" to mean "arse".

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