There is a story, apocryphal, that the French at Agincourt had a propensity for cutting off the index and middle fingers of English and Welsh archers so they could never again draw a bow. In defiance the plucky Brits raised a V-sign to their opponents.

Warmonger Churchill subverted and inverted this sign to symbolise “Victory”, rather than the obscene meaning it had acquired in the UK, though in much of the world there’s no distinction drawn between the two forms. Both are victory.

The Japanese (and other Asian groups) like to hold up a pair of fingers whilst being photographed. Sometimes they’ll hold them up behind the head of a companion as “rabbit ears”.

The index finger is, of course, a miracle of evolution. It’s perfectly sized for the excavation of nasal orifices. To sit there, finger up nostril, whilst taboo in the West, is an every day feature of life here in Thailand; there’s no stigma here.

The Americans, not overly keen on raising two fingers to the world, have reduced the gesture to a single raised middle finger.

Curiously enough, the middle finger in Thailand has a similarly taboo value. To me, if I want to point to an item on, say, a menu, it makes sense to use the longest finger. It’s the pointiest, and requires least effort to deploy. However, its use will also cause offence. More than once have I been chastised for my deployment of my middle digit.

Whilst I may, from time to time, want to stick two fingers up to the world, for as long as I’m in Thailand, I’ll have to settle for the index finger alone.


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