The Straight Dope

Go Back   Straight Dope Message Board > Main > General Questions

Reply
 
Thread Tools Display Modes
  #1  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:18 AM
ThatGuy ThatGuy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
Is there a universal hand gesture for "thank you"?

Often while on the road when another driver is kind enough to let me pass or some other courtesy i find the need to give a quick "thanks" as i drive by....but the only thing that comes to mind is a "thumbs up" sign, and that just seems cheesy. How can i show my grattitude in a passing moment?
Reply With Quote
Advertisements  
  #2  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:22 AM
Genghis Bob Genghis Bob is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Oct 2003
I always wave. Kind of a variation of the "Queen Wave" - hand up, fingers spread, side-to-side motion. Most people get it, and some respond back.
Reply With Quote
  #3  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:25 AM
FlippyFly FlippyFly is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
I think that in america at least, a nod combined with a sort of salute thing works pretty well. Actually, now that I think about it, it is a bit like a mini bow. One quick down and up with the head, and maybe a open hand from about six inches infront of the face, moving upwards.
Reply With Quote
  #4  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:35 AM
Moon-Watcher Moon-Watcher is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: May 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlippyFly
maybe a open hand from about six inches infront of the face, moving upwards.
This is what I usually do, and find it fairly common.
Reply With Quote
  #5  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:36 AM
t-keela t-keela is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
In Texas most folks I know just wave with their right hand as they pass the person who let them pass. This way they are able to see you friendly gesture through the back glass as you go by.Often a light tap on the brake pad is meant to say thankyou. Mostly truckers practice this but I use a lot myself.

A light tap on the brake or a wave is the usual gesture here.
Reply With Quote
  #6  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:39 AM
FlippyFly FlippyFly is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Here is the official "thank you" in american sign language:

Touch the lips with the fingertips of one or both flat hands, then move the hands forward until the palms are facing up.

http://www.masterstech-home.com/The_....html#Thankyou
Reply With Quote
  #7  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:48 AM
t-keela t-keela is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
ThatGuy You were talking about a thankyou gesture to be used while driving right?
Reply With Quote
  #8  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:55 AM
ThatGuy ThatGuy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
The need for such a gesture occured to me while driving, but i am intrested in a "thank you" gesture for any situation that would merit it.
Reply With Quote
  #9  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:56 AM
Cub Mistress Cub Mistress is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Nov 2003
Location: Middle Tennessee
Posts: 2,551
I use a smile and a wave, (palm out, fingers up and moving up and sort of to the right at the same time. ) It's very common here in Tennessee, especially in the rural areas.
Reply With Quote
  #10  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:58 AM
FlippyFly FlippyFly is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
It's a bit of a sad statement that there would be no debate at all if you had asked 'what is the universal hand signal for (pick your explitive).' Well, actually, there would be... I don't think the middle finger crosses all cultural boundaries.
Reply With Quote
  #11  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:59 AM
ThatGuy ThatGuy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 2002
That's exactly what i was thinking FlippyFly, that i knew of plenty rude gestures....however when it came to showing a kind one i was stumped as to what to do.
Reply With Quote
  #12  
Old 08-26-2004, 10:09 AM
t-keela t-keela is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
In that case, then simply placing your hand over your heart with a slight bow or nod is considered a gesture of appreciation and respect in every culture that I can think of. Clasped or "praying hands" is another fairly universal gesture of good will. But still, a simple wave is good anywhere.
Reply With Quote
  #13  
Old 08-26-2004, 10:10 AM
Polycarp Polycarp is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Aug 1999
Location: A better place to be
Posts: 26,718
I don't know for sure what's universally accepted, but in almost 40 years of driving across about 20 states and a Canadian province, I've always found that the "pseudosalute" -- open hand starting near forehead, coming up and out, accompanied by smile -- conveys the meaning "thank you" very clearly.

If someone ahead of you does you a kindness, a quick flash of headlights to get their attention, accompanied by the wave if you are visible to them, is appropriate.
Reply With Quote
  #14  
Old 08-26-2004, 10:21 AM
Alessan Alessan is online now
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2000
Quote:
Originally Posted by Polycarp

If someone ahead of you does you a kindness, a quick flash of headlights to get their attention, accompanied by the wave if you are visible to them, is appropriate.
Don't try that everywhere - in some places, flashing headlights is always a warning or a threat. When someone flashes from behind me I always assume he wants me out of his way.
Reply With Quote
  #15  
Old 08-26-2004, 02:24 PM
FilmGeek FilmGeek is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Sep 2003
When driving around big trucks (semis) I try to use my headlights as a signal. If someone needs to get in front of me, the thing to do is flash once or twice to let them know they have enough room.

They usually flash or tap the brakes as a thanks. I learned all this on a cross country drive with a 25 foot rental truck with my volvo on a trailer on the back.
Reply With Quote
  #16  
Old 08-26-2004, 03:26 PM
PussyCow PussyCow is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
I think more people should give a shaka.

For those who have not visited Hawaii:

Make a fist, except your pinky and thumb stick out and point away from each other. Then twist that hand.

When I lived in Hawaii I would make a concerted effort to allow The Bus drivers into the lane in front of me just so I could see that shaka sign stick out from the window. Really made me smile.
Reply With Quote
  #17  
Old 08-26-2004, 03:39 PM
Dio2112 Dio2112 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by PussyCow
I think more people should give a shaka.
I dunno about that. I grew up in Hawaii, and my parents still live there. Whenever they come to visit me in Chicago, my dad insists on giving everyone the "shaka" in traffic. I keep waiting for someone to waste him for flashing some kind of gang sign. When in Rome, and all that....
Reply With Quote
  #18  
Old 08-26-2004, 03:58 PM
PussyCow PussyCow is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Dio2112
I keep waiting for someone to waste him for flashing some kind of gang sign. When in Rome, and all that....
You got a point there.
You know how you use your thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger to make a three-axis plot? Well, I learned you should be careful where you do that since it is a gang sign in some city in CA.
Reply With Quote
  #19  
Old 08-26-2004, 04:11 PM
FlippyFly FlippyFly is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by PussyCow
You got a point there.
You know how you use your thumb, pointer finger, and middle finger to make a three-axis plot? Well, I learned you should be careful where you do that since it is a gang sign in some city in CA.
Yeah they call themselves 'Rule of the Right Hand.'
Reply With Quote
  #20  
Old 08-26-2004, 05:50 PM
Chronos Chronos is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: The Land of Cleves
Posts: 55,524
Quote:
It's a bit of a sad statement that there would be no debate at all if you had asked 'what is the universal hand signal for (pick your explitive).' Well, actually, there would be... I don't think the middle finger crosses all cultural boundaries.
Quote:
But still, a simple wave is good anywhere.
In some parts of Italy, the most taboo of gestures is a wave with the palm towards the other person. The closest translation for the sentiment expressed would be "go to Hell", except that it's taken a lot more seriously. So no, obscene gestures don't cross cultural boundaries, and no, a simple wave is not good anywhere.
__________________
Time travels in divers paces with divers persons.
--As You Like It, III:ii:328
Reply With Quote
  #21  
Old 08-26-2004, 06:54 PM
MLS MLS is online now
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Location: New Jersey
Posts: 7,394
On the "thumbs-up" thing, I think I've read somewhere (but don't remember where) that in some middle eastern countries this signifies the same thing as the raised middle finger in other places.
Reply With Quote
  #22  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:27 PM
TJdude825 TJdude825 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Feb 2000
I use the wave while driving, to mean "Thank you." I don't recommend using the ASL one above, especially if you're turning.

The only time I flash my headlights at someone is to mean "Hey! You forgot to turn your headlights on!" I don't know if that's universal, but it seems to me that if you saw flashing lights behind you, your mind at least might drift toward the subject of lights, and you'd notice that your headlights were off.
Reply With Quote
  #23  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:40 PM
TellMeI'mNotCrazy TellMeI'mNotCrazy is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by TJdude825
I use the wave while driving, to mean "Thank you." I don't recommend using the ASL one above, especially if you're turning.

The only time I flash my headlights at someone is to mean "Hey! You forgot to turn your headlights on!" I don't know if that's universal, but it seems to me that if you saw flashing lights behind you, your mind at least might drift toward the subject of lights, and you'd notice that your headlights were off.
I do the same; someone doesn't have their lights on when they clearly would want to, I give them a quick flick of the lights. It's also used (around here at least) to warn of a cop ahead so that you can check your speed. Of course, cops are savvy to this, so they have pulled people over for flicking their lights. One case that I remember, a young guy had flashed oncoming traffic to warn of a cop. A cop headed in the opposite direction noticed him - and of course knew why he'd flashed. But he pulled him over anyway on the premise of thinking maybe something was wrong - maybe he was attempting to signal the cop. Of course, he wasn't, and ended up busted for a joint in his ashtray. I've always been a little more wary of flashing a warning after reading that.

As to the OP, I always give a quick wave, which isn't always easy since half the time I'm shifting into the next gear with one hand, and driving with the other. And it's probably irrational, but it annoys me slightly if I go out of my way to let someone in front of me and they don't acknowledge it somehow.
Reply With Quote
  #24  
Old 08-26-2004, 09:49 PM
Diceman Diceman is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Mar 1999
A quick wave with your right hand is very common around here, too.

Tapping your brakes is usually done to encourage tailgaters to back off a bit.

Flashing your headlights is used to tell people to turn their own headlights on.

Flashing oncoming traffic is also done to warn people that they're approaching a speed trap
Reply With Quote
  #25  
Old 08-27-2004, 01:48 AM
j_sum1 j_sum1 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2003
Is there a universal hand gesture for "thank you"?

Obviously not. Because the OP doesn't know it. Therefore it's not universal. :P

I have often thought it would be good if cars had a rear-mounted courtesy light. Perhaps a purple strobe that flashes twice to say, "thanks for letting me in". And maybe flashing four times when you mean to say "Sorry, I goofed", like when you reverse out of a carpark without looking properly. They could become as standard as indicators and brake lights.
Reply With Quote
  #26  
Old 08-27-2004, 02:01 AM
t-keela t-keela is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
In some parts of Italy, the most taboo of gestures is a wave with the palm towards the other person. The closest translation for the sentiment expressed would be "go to Hell", except that it's taken a lot more seriously. So no, obscene gestures don't cross cultural boundaries, and no, a simple wave is not good anywhere.
What parts might that be. I'd like to check it out. My wife was Italian and some of her family members had only been in the US for a generation or two. I've never heard any of them have a negative response to a simple wave. Now there are some more complicated hand gestures that will get you in a fight.
However, there may be some isolated pockets where a wave could be considered an insult. I guess ThatGuy better be careful when driving to those places, huh.
Reply With Quote
  #27  
Old 08-27-2004, 02:12 AM
t-keela t-keela is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 2002
Quote:
Originally Posted by Chronos
...a simple wave is not good anywhere.
This is GP therefore I agree that my statement. "A simple wave is good anywhere." is too absolute when taken literally. I usually try to avoid making absolute comments such as the previous one. Therefore I would like to amend it to: A simple wave is usually good anywhere. or How about, A simple wave is good in most places? Will that suffice?


Good, I hope so too.
Reply With Quote
  #28  
Old 08-27-2004, 08:23 AM
si_blakely si_blakely is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2002
In the UK, an open palm wave is used, or a quick flash of the hazard lights.

Simon
Reply With Quote
  #29  
Old 08-27-2004, 12:42 PM
BarnOwl BarnOwl is offline
Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2003
Posts: 4,748
So what does this gesture mean?

Put your hand with beneath your chin, with the palm more or less facing your throat. Now bring your hand forward, gently brushing your chin with your index finger and end up with the palm facing up. Perhaps you should also have a mean look on your face.

I know - or rather think - itīs a gesture of contempt, but how deep does the feeling go? In other words, if you were to express this verbally, what words would you use?

I suspect itīs is an Italian gesture, but I never saw it used in any of the Godfather flicks.
Reply With Quote
  #30  
Old 08-27-2004, 12:53 PM
PussyCow PussyCow is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jul 2004
Quote:
Originally Posted by Antiochus
So what does this gesture mean?

Put your hand with beneath your chin, with the palm more or less facing your throat. Now bring your hand forward, gently brushing your chin with your index finger and end up with the palm facing up. Perhaps you should also have a mean look on your face.

I know - or rather think - itīs a gesture of contempt, but how deep does the feeling go? In other words, if you were to express this verbally, what words would you use?

I suspect itīs is an Italian gesture, but I never saw it used in any of the Godfather flicks.
Yah, it's Italian.
Basically means "screw you".
Reply With Quote
  #31  
Old 08-27-2004, 01:12 PM
1010011010 1010011010 is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Jun 1999
Universal? Probably not. The "OK" gesture (circle with thumb and index finger) is a hand signal for "asshole" elsewhere- I saw someone use this while driving yesterday (directed to the person in front of us, not to me ;D). The "thumbs up" is recognized as a representation of the male naughty bit... so it might be interesting if you thanked a female driver with this one. The peace sign also has some pretty racy meanings elsewhere in the world.

I have a sister-in-law that trained tour guides for Disney for a while, and supposedly they have some sort of internal handbook on potentially offensive body language from around the world. Pretty much the only things I remember taking away from that conversation are that Disney guides point at things with their index & middle fingers together and avoid making fists.

I generally just do an open palm, fingers together, pope wave kinda thing... I don't try to make eye-contact or smile, as I'm usually busy merging into traffic or whatnot and have my attention elsewhere.
Reply With Quote
  #32  
Old 08-27-2004, 06:41 PM
tim314 tim314 is offline
Charter Member
 
Join Date: Mar 2004
Posts: 3,900
On the subject of misinterpreted gestures:

I took a large lecture course in college where one of the students was deaf, so a translator stood next to the professor and repeated everything she said in sign. The professor had a triangle shaped hand gesture that she always used when talking about . . . something, I don't remember. But anway, it must have been some point she made a lot, because she did this almost every class. One day after class the translator commented to her "You know, you keep giving the sign for 'pussy.'"
Reply With Quote
  #33  
Old 08-27-2004, 08:27 PM
bughunter bughunter is offline
Guest
 
Join Date: Apr 2001
Quote:
Originally Posted by FlippyFly
Here is the official "thank you" in american sign language:

Touch the lips with the fingertips of one or both flat hands, then move the hands forward until the palms are facing up.
I would advise using this in traffic, as it is far too easy to be misconstrued by an ignorant person as an insult.

Maybe this one: Holding the right hand, with the back forward, then lightly brushing the tips of fingers beneath the chin several times with a forward motion has the meaning of an insult.. (Page 62 of cached document in google link. The pdf original did strange things to IE6.)

Or perhaps one of these.
Reply With Quote
Reply



Bookmarks

Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is Off
HTML code is Off

Forum Jump


All times are GMT -5. The time now is 01:57 PM.


Powered by vBulletin® Version 3.8.7
Copyright ©2000 - 2014, vBulletin Solutions, Inc.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: cecil@chicagoreader.com

Send comments about this website to: webmaster@straightdope.com

Terms of Use / Privacy Policy

Advertise on the Straight Dope!
(Your direct line to thousands of the smartest, hippest people on the planet, plus a few total dipsticks.)

Publishers - interested in subscribing to the Straight Dope?
Write to: sdsubscriptions@chicagoreader.com.

Copyright Đ 2013 Sun-Times Media, LLC.