Hand Jive

Following are just a few hand gestures and their meanings…there were some I wanted to put on here, but my better judgement won out. Sooo if you’re interested in looking up any more of these hand signals here’s the link for Wikipedia where I got this information.

Bang bang

This gesture mimes a handgun.

This gesture mimes a handgun.

The “bang bang” gesture is performed by raising the fist with the index finger and thumb extended. The index finger points at the recipient. The thumb is then brought down on top of the fingers. This imitation of the action of a revolver pistol is often meant to represent a handgun in children’s games. It may also be used menacingly to mean “I’m gonna kill you”, or simply as a playful greeting. The middle finger is often also extended to widen the “barrel”.

Texas Tech fans use a form of this salute, which they call “Guns up” (fingers pointed upward), to cheer their team. Also, the “bang bang” performed with both hands was a signature gesture of professional wrestler Mick Foley while he was in his “Cactus Jack” persona.

Also, if the thumb and middle finger are used to click, and the thumb the pointed upwards to form the gun, this can also be interpreted as a greeting.

A two-handed version of the same gesture can be used to indicate sporting/business success or sexual conquest (frequently accompanied by a syncopated “pow-pow”, esp. in a posh British accent).

A clenched fist.

A clenched fist.

A raised, clenched fist is used as a gesture of defiance by a number of groups. It is usually considered to be hostile, yet without any sexual, scatological, or notionally offensive connotations. It is especially associated with Communists and with other nationalist or ethnic revolutionary or would-be revolutionary movements, and with the Black Power movements of the 1960s in the United States. When singing The Internationale, the Marxist anthem, it is customary to make this gesture. A clenched fist raised quickly up and down and then punched in some direction also signifies a military call for a heavy weapons team to close on the gesturer or to move or open fire in the direction indicated by the punch. In US military, the right fist raised up with a straight arm, with the finger side towards the receiver, is an order for the person to stop immediately – to “freeze”.[1] American Football referees use a raised fist to indicate that a team faces fourth down. This gesture can also be used to mean “I am angered or offended by what you have done.”

The finger” is a very common offensive hand gesture.

“The finger” is a gesture consisting of a fist with the middle finger extended. It appears to be universally understood as “f**k you”. It is certainly thousands of years old, being referred to in Ancient Roman literature as the digitus infamis or digitus impudicus. Performing this gesture is also called “flipping the bird” in countries where “the finger” is used. In other regions, “flipping the bird” refers to the raising of the middle and index finger with the back of the hand directed at the recipient. It can also mean “Victor” (see V Sign, below) in some countries, which is not to be mistaken for the “Peace” gesture, which is done with the palm facing the recipient of the gesture, but in Britain and some other countries it is an offensive gesture, equivalent to “the finger”. George W. Bush can be seen making the gesture while he was the Governor of Texas, while goofing off before beginning filming of a public address. This is also known as a one finger salute, or international salute. Will Smith as Agent J in Men_in_Black_(film) rubs his forehead using this gesture when told “When you grow up” you can have a standard neuralizer.

Former professional wrestler Stone Cold Steve Austin used the finger quite frequently in WWE shows. He raises both of the fingers to the crowd as a way of saluting to them. Also, he gestures the finger at his opponent before kicking them in the stomach and performing the Stone Cold Stunner.

Comedian Dane Cook parodied the gesture with his “Super Finger” gesture, which consists of raising the middle finger, ring finger, and thumb on the same hand while lowering (or curling) the index and little fingers. It is meant to be a more “powerful” version of “the finger”.

The middle finger is also used to represent the number four when one counts in the binary system using one’s fingers.[4]

When this gesture is made with the palm facing forward, it is known to Chaotes practicing Lovecraftian magick as the “Sign of Kish”. Another Lovecraftian sign is the “Sign of Koth”, which consists of fully extending the index finger, middle finger, ring finger, and little finger, while the thumb is tucked against the flat of the hand.



The “shaka” sign is a common greeting in beach and surfer culture.

The “shaka” sign is a common greeting gesture often associated with Hawaii, California, and beach and surfer culture in general. It consists of extending the thumb and little finger while keeping the three middle fingers curled, and is often described colloquially as the “hang loose”or “chilax” gesture. It is similar to American Sign Language letter “Y“, where a fist is also made with only the thumb and little finger extended. The sign is often followed by waving as a greeting or acknowledgment. It can be used when driving as a signal of thanks to other drivers (for example, someone who stopped to let another driver onto the road from a driveway).

The “shaka” sign is also the greeting gesture for members of Alpha Phi Alpha Fraternity, Inc. which is the “phi” sign. All African-American Greek fraternities and sororities have hand greeting gestures.


Talk to the hand (Cagliari)

Talk to the hand (Cagliari)

This gesture is used as a physical interjection to express indifference or contempt and interrupt what someone is saying. The arm is extended with the hand vertical and palm facing and centred around the face of the other individual.

Pollice Verso by Jean-Léon Gérôme, 1872 is the immediate source of the

Thumbs up, thumbs down

A closed fist held with the thumb extended upward or downward is a gesture of approval or disapproval, respectively. These gestures have become metaphors in English: “My boss gave my proposal the thumbs-up” means that the boss approved the proposal, regardless of whether the gesture was made — indeed, the gesture itself is unlikely in a business setting.

The source of the gesture is obscure. Though a favorite of Hollywood ‘swords and sandals’ epics, where the “thumbs down” symbol means that the loser in a gladiatorial combat should be put to death, recent research suggests the meanings of the symbols have changed over the years. In 1997, Professor Anthony Philip Corbeill of the University of Kansas concluded that the thumbs up actually meant “Kill him,” basing his assertion on a study of hundreds of ancient artworks. The crowds would point their thumbs “up”, the thumb pointing to the throat which held a similar meaning to moving one’s thumb across their throat. Thus, the “thumbs up” was an approval of the gladiator’s request to kill his vanquished foe rather than a vote to allow the defeated to remain alive. Corbeill wrote that a closed fist with a wraparound thumb was the indication for a gladiator’s life to be spared.

Additionally, Desmond Morris’ Gestures: Their Origins and Distributiontraces the practice back to a medieval custom used to seal business transactions… Over time, the mere sight of an upraised thumb came to symbolize harmony and kind feelings… The gesture’s popularization in America is generally attributed to the practices of World War II pilots, who used the thumbs up to communicate with ground crews prior to take-off. American GIs are reputed to have picked up on the thumb and spread it throughout Europe as they marched toward Berlin.”

More recently, these gestures are associated with movie reviews, having been popularized by Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert in their televised reviews — the thumb up meaning a positive opinion of a film; the thumb down meaning a negative one. One or two thumbs up, often held over the head, may also be used by athletes in celebration of a victory.

“‘Thumbs up’ traditionally translates as the foulest of Middle-Eastern gesticular insults — the most straightforward interpretation is ‘Up yours, pal!’ The sign has a similarly pejorative meaning in parts of West Africa, South America, Russia, Iran, Greece, and Sardinia, according to Roger E. Axtell’s book Gestures: The Do’s and Taboos of Body Language Around the World.”


5 responses to “Hand Jive

  1. Pingback: DeafPulse.com - the one-stop pulse for all Deaf-related news and blogs.

  2. Very interesting. Seriously, you come up with some of the most fascinating stuff. I thrive to be “well-informed.” Thumbs up to you! 🙂

  3. dragonlady474

    I’m doing a hand gesture Goldbloom. Can you guess which one it is? 🙂

  4. Even I can guess THAT one…LOL.

  5. You know I’m psychic! No wait…that’s psycho…nevermind.

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