As a rule, gentlemen do not make obscene gestures.

But we live in a complicated world, and there may come a time—possibly in foreign lands—when such a gesture is suddenly, unexpectedly leveled against you. And due to Earth’s rich tapestry of cultural difference, you may not know exactly what you’re being accused of.

So we thought we’d take a quick, illustrated tour through five of the most prevalent and/or amusing gestures the world has to offer—from Italian devil horns to the secret meaning of the thumbs-up. Use this knowledge only for good.

The V
Origin: The British Isles
Significance: Generic scissor-based hostility
Appropriate Response: Rock

The Moutza
Origin: Greece
Significance: “I push you in the face”
Appropriate Response: Face wash.

The Fig Sign
Origin: South-eastern Europe
Significance: Sexual inadequacy
Appropriate Response: A dance-off.

The Corna
Origin: Medieval Italy
Significance: If the palm faces in: cuckoldry. If the palm faces out: metal.
Appropriate Response: Fighting or rocking out, respectively.

The Cutis
Origin: India and Pakistan
Significance: Essentially “I bite my thumb at you.”
Appropriate Response: Purell

Thumbs Up
Origin: Believe it or not, it’s an insult in the Middle East, Russia and Latin America.
Significance: To quote Fonzie, “sit on it.”
Appropriate Response: Time to stop hitchhiking

St’arxidia Mou
Origin: Greece
Significance: A cross between “right here” and “I’m ignoring you.” Translates literally to “I write it on my testicles.”
Appropriate Response: Adopt it as your own

—R.B.

CONTRIBUTORS

  • Russell Brandom