Hand Gesticulations
Emblems (Part 2)

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Welcome to the second part on emblems hand gestures, here we will focus on some common gesticulations and their meanings:

Thumbs Up, Thumbs Down

Thumbs are a unique feature of our hand, it’s what allows us to hold and use tools effectively. As such, gesticulations with the thumb have a "superiority flavor" to them. To “put someone’s under the thumb” is the act of dominating and controlling him, but there are other meanings, it depends where you are and to where you're pointing that thumb:

       If it's up - it's supportive

       If it's down - this sucks

       If you point at someone - a dismissive signal, a ridiculing gesture.

       If it's pointed towards the door - you know where to go.

       If you stand on the road - you're an hitchhiker waiting for a lift.

       In Australia it shows what you can sit on...

thumbs up.

       If you count with your fingers, which finger do you count as 1? If you're European you're most likely start with the thumb. Sometimes it's critical:

Victory, peace or something completely different?

I already mentioned that the "V" sign is very sensitive gesture.

This gesticulation can mean peace or victory - A positive and fitting meanings for any group photo. But try the inverted version in Britain, Australia or Greece (especially when it's done with a quick jerk of the hand) and things won't look so peaceful (again - it's "up yours", you have to be really careful with "positive" gestures in Britain)

And of course, in many places (or circumstances) it counts as the number 2...

The Horns

This is one of the gesticulations that started an evolution of its own, its meaning not only changing from place to place but from time to time and whether you're a rock fan or a sports fan.

Anyway, "the horns" gesture is created by holding the middle fingers with your thumb and pointing the index finger and pinky.

And the meanings?

1. A superstitious symbol in Italy and Spain -  it's a ward against the evil eye called the malocchio. In such places, if you see something bad you make this symbol and it's supposed to protect you from bad luck. (it's similar to the superstitious act of knocking on hard wood)

2. Another use of this gesticulation in Spain and Italy is when it's pointed towards a specific person  - In this case it's supposed to mean that his wife is not very faithful to him (to put it lightly).

3. Heavy metal - popularized by Dio "the horns" became the symbol of heavy metal.

4. Some take it as if it's the sign of the devil. (No surprise here, Heavy metal + Superstitious sign = you get the devil).

Rock on

Image Source

5. The sign of many sport clubs. Most notably the Texas Longhorn football team. You know.. because of the bull's skull Texas loves so much.

6. This sign became so popular over time, that today every teen thinks it's cool without really knowing why, or if it's the right genre for it.

As you can see, it all depends on whom you'll ask and to which generation he or she belongs. Who knows what this hand gesture will mean in a few years...

The "OK"

This gesture was popularized by the American culture to mean OK. (as was the word "OK" spread to mean "good" or "yes" in many parts of the globe).

This gesticulation is interesting because it can be an emblem for OK, but it's also very similar to the precision grip we're going to talk about later (just keep that in mind).

In some parts of Europe (like France) this sign can mean "zero" - an appreciation to something's or someone's worth.

Image Source

In Japan they thought about the shape of a coin - so it stand as the signal for money there. And if we mentioned money, in many countries the signal for it is the rubbing of the middle and index finger with the thumb.

And some cultures took it to a more sinister side (like Turkey and Russia) where it represent a sexual insult meaning "you're an homosexual". I don't need to elaborate why, do I?

Continue Reading

As you can see, these kind of gestures often mean insults or hold a superstitious connotation. It only shows that emblems, usually, used for emotional instances when words are not enough.

I also recommend watching this video for a quick review on what gestures you should be careful with:

On the next part we will look at illustrators - gestures that don't mean much on their own, but their role is to support and emphasize our verbal message.

Hand gestures - Illustrators Part 1

You can always jump to any part of the series as you desire:

Hand Gestures - Basics

Emblems Gesticulations (Part 1, Part 2)

Illustrators (Part 1 | Part 2)

Affect Displays (Part 1 | Part 2)

Regulators (Part 1 | Part 2)


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