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V is for …

“Are you really telling me you have NO idea what this means?” I say to someone today.

“No!” they reply, “Why, is it rude? Isn’t that the peace sign” Err… no, not quite!

And so it would appear – not just with this particular person, but with almost all Americans that I’ve tried it on (in jest, you understand) that they just don’t ‘do’ what I always thought was the internationally agreed standard for telling someone to fcuk off in the same way that we do.

Instead they prefer to stick to ‘the finger’ instead (“Yes Goose, I know the finger“) for when they want to gesticulate their emotions.

Can this really be the case?

Are there no USA’ers out there that like to give the two fingered salute once in a while? Or even better (for when you’re really fcuked off with someone) the double v-sign? And if not, does this really mean I can go round using it on people without them having a clue as to what I’m really saying!

And what’s the etymology of rude signs anyway? Where does rude signage originate from? And is there a more appropriate word to use than ‘etymology’ when trying to work out the derivation of rude sign language.

(And Leigh wants me to point out that she used her new cool 50mm 1.4/f lens to take the swearograph of me)

20 responses to “V is for …”

  1. jaz says:

    It is a fine picture, but, hey, Leigh took it so what else could it be but fine?

    I have to plead ignorance here.

    I would have just assumed you were talking about two of something.

    P.S. We also reverse the order of the “c” and the “u” when we spell the word out.

  2. Mikey says:

    I’d heard that before about Americans not knowing the V-Sign.
    Rather curious I just thought, I never use any hand gestures. I swear plenty, but that’s in everyday conversation, whereas gesturing is almost a confrontational action in most situations, which is probably why I don’t do, being the great jolly joker I am

  3. Nick says:

    Geoff, you been getting my emails, drop me a line…hope your well.

  4. Agricola says:

    So…..when Churchill was flashing the sign he was telling everybody to fcuk off?

  5. That looks like a 50mm 1.4/f-off lens to me.

  6. Yorkie says:

    Is the visual gag at the end of the Mr Bean film not quite what it seems then?

  7. Julia says:

    #4 Thank fully No. the importance of the 2 fingered salute is the orientation of the palm. To show victory, your palm must be facing forward. To tell someone to f off, the back of your hand should be facing forward (as Geoff is demonstrating so beautifully). Much humour is gleened in childhood as kids invariably get the 2 the wrong way round!

  8. I love the *mean* look that Geoff gives to camera!

  9. Bob H says:

    I have always been taught and believe it to be true that:

    “According to a myth that is especially popular in the UK, the vulgarity of the V sign comes from English longbowmen who, during the Hundred Years War, would have their index and middle fingers cut off by the French if captured in battle, due to the large numbers of French knights who were cut down by English arrows at battles such as Crcy and Agincourt. To show defiance before and during battle, they would display their two bow fingers to the French to show they were still able to shoot their bows.”

    So, it is actually a symbol of defiance more than an insult.

  10. Johnny Alpha says:

    I like the obscure Arabic insult … put your palm upturned about 6 inches below your chin.

    “You are so boring, my beard will grow this long before you shut up”

    I’ve always seen the v-sign as pretty comedy and not at all serious. Probably down to Rik in The Young Ones going around “flicking v’s” at eveyone. Haven’t been able to take it too seriously since then.

    Kind of like the hand gesture equivalent of “bloody” being a bad swear word.

    If you’re going to bother with hand signs then best to go all in at the start with the finger!

  11. The comedy way to offer the V is to accompany it with the words “ah, I think you dropped these…?”

    … always good for a laugh!

  12. Stewart says:

    Use the ‘V’ around here and you risk looking like an extra from a Verizon TV advert.

    Here’s my fave:

  13. sam says:

    Freaky – I actually had this conversation with someone the other day. I gave someone the sign jokingly and he gave it back and said peace. So it turns out all the times ive nearly been run over and given the v sign to drivers ive actually been nice to them.

  14. Paul says:

    Maybe americans wouldn’t know because its the ASL letter (American Sign Language and not Age, Sex Location, lol) for “V”.

  15. Dan says:

    Yes, The Young Ones. That’s really where I learned it. Whenever I use it I feel compelled to say “Up Scumbag!” Scumbag being the name of the college that the lads were representing in the quiz bowl episode… that’s the one where two of their opponents from the rival upper-class college were Stephen Fry and Emma Thompson. Thompson’s famous answer to some obscure academic question? “I’ve got a Porsche!” No wonder you English need multiple forms of fcuk-off expressions. Must be a class thing.

  16. Lisa says:

    And here I thought it was for Victory. Haven’t the presidents been putting up a “V” in both hands since this country’s inception? Maybe that’s the palm out maining…as you clearly have your palm in. Does it matter?

  17. Liam says:

    To answer the question, no, that gesture has absolutely no meaning in the US. The best example is that a middle finger will be blurred out on television, but on the show “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” Spike plainly made the V gesture (it’s in the opening credits for one or more of the later series). I wonder if they blur that when it’s shown in other countries.

  18. Johnny Alpha says:

    >Whenever I use it I feel compelled to say Up Scumbag!

    Good lad! 🙂

    Rah, rah, rah, we’re going to smash the oiks!


  19. ClaphamCommuter says:

    As your well learned mater Geoff, I think I should point out that the esteemed ‘V’ sign meant ‘Up yours Matey’ i.e. I have triumphed over you, you miserable worm, crawl back into the hole you came from!, in our teen youth. The ‘F’ word was not used much as an insult, more to describe carnal activity in the D.H.Lawrence context, which at that time had just been invented by teenagers.

  20. leslie says:

    Well, others have already channeled the Young Ones, so I don’t need to. I do sometimes use the two fingered salute, but only really in jest amongst friends. My friend and I did used to like to say, ‘Get your fingers ready!’ before attempting to cross any street in Paris, though.

    Speaking of the Young Ones, I watched the movie Starter for Ten the other day, and had flashbacks the entire time. I kept singing the “Rah rah rah” under my breath and expecting to see one of them with bacon sandwiches.

    “Who’s been tampering with my question cards?”

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