View Full Version : The "Shame, shame" sign.

Idle Thoughts
10-30-2005, 08:53 PM
Okay, I was just talking to someone on IM about an hour ago. She told me she was going to get Burger King later. Now this is a friend of mine who always chastises ME about eating fast food...so, in ribbing her about it in a light-hearted way, I replied back with "Shame shame *does the finger thing*"

And that got me thinking....

First of all, I hope everyone will understand what I mean by "the finger thing". It's where you take one finger (the index) and stick it out like you're pointing at something, and then you take the other index finger of your other hand and rub it on the first one (over the top), in a downward motion just to repeat the process.

I then went to several American Sign Language sites and all to no avail. And it's not exactly the type of thing that's easily googled..however I did try, in vain, for about 10 minutes.

So what of it? This sign that's known as "Shame on you", how did it become so? I mean, it seems like it has nothing to do with, well, anything. Just a random movement of the hands. How did this ever come to mean "Shame, shame" or "Naughty naughty"?

Or maybe, like my last GQ question, about the phrase "mums the word", it's really simple. :o

10-30-2005, 09:04 PM
Apparently, the origin of this gesture is unknown (http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0305/glad_u_asked032405.php3):
Mark Knapp...and other experts say the whittling motion of the non-pointing finger indicates "friction." Making this gesture toward someone indicates "you are causing trouble between us!"

The origin of the "shame-shame" motion is unknown, but it does seem to be limited almost entirely to the United States. They've got a similar hand jive in Wales, Germany and Austria, but in those places you make a sawing motion with the non-pointing finger. Weird, huh?

10-31-2005, 01:31 PM
The story I got a long time ago (sorry, no cite) is that in some long-ago place, some minor crimes were punished by lopping off a finger. So, in mimicking the amputation, you are saying, "Hoo, boy, are you gonna get in trouble for that!"

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