June 20, 2008
Originally PUBLISHED August 20, 2005
I read long ago that the gesture of a handshake was started to mean that you meant peace and you had no quarrel with the other person. You offered him your empty right hand to show that you didn't intend to pull a sword or a knife to try to kill him. That sign language goes back a long time in history.
The American Indians did something akin to that gesture. They raised an open right palm to show that they didn't have a weapon. That meant that they wanted to talk rather than fight.
The "flipping finger" (meaning FUCK YOU!!!) was invented by the British after their masters of the longbow became feared by their opponents. If longbow archers were captured by their enemies, the captors frequently cut off the middle finger of the bowman's right hand, so that he could not shoot a bow anymore.
Shooting "the bird" was a sign that you could still fight with the best of them. You still had your middle finger, so you were good to go.
Look at pictures of Winston Churchill during World War II. He was always showing that "V" for victory sign. I learned later that if he did it with the palm of his hand pointed AT the camera, that meant nothing but a "V" for victory.
But if he showed you the BACK of his hand with two fingers raised, it was just like shooting the bird. It meant, still have my fingers and I'll shoot you if I get the chance. That gesture came from people who fired longbows.
I tried shooting a longbow once. Just STRINGING the damn thing is one hell of an effort and I was in good shape back at that time. It was damn nearly as long as I was tall, and I had to wrestle with that bastard for a while before I got the bowstring on it.
It had a 170-pound draw and it would fire an arrow an incredible distance, IF you could draw the device all the way back and hold it for more than ... oh, about two seconds.
You have to be a bad-ass to handle one of those. It's like doing a 170-pound sideways bench press.
I like reading about such things. I've attended several supervisory training seminars that were designed to teach me how to read "body language." I paid attention and discovered, with experience, that most what they taught is true.
I've just been piss-poor at reading wimmen in my life.
All content © Rob Smith