"Thumbs up" gesture is obscene to Australians?

I was shocked to read from this site that the “thumbs up” gesture is considered obscene in Australia.

What are the origins of this gesture being offensive? Why is it offensive - is it like “stick it up your ass?” Is it similar to giving the finger? Does anyone have any stories about offending an Aussie by giving them the thumbs up? Does Ebert know about this? Have any visiting dignitaries notoriously offended the entire country be flashing a thumbs up?

More things from that same website:

Same questions as above - why is this offensive, and what exactly are you saying by making this gesture?

Finally, that same site has this tidbit which utterly confuses me:

How does the soup get to your mouth if you’re moving the spoon away from you? Are you supposed to hold the bowl under your neck? Extend your arm and then use the spoon as a catapult and throw the broth at your face?

Finally, are these things considered offensive in New Zealand? I’m going to Auckland on vacation in November and I’d hate to accidentally offend anyone. I’d also like to maybe have some soup.

I have never heard that thumbs up is offensive in Australia. It isn’t in NZ though, so you can safely thumbs up to your hearts content.

The two fingered gesture has basicly the same meaning as the not-so-polite one fingered gesture.

The soup thing baffles me.

I’ve never considered the “thumbs up” gesture offensive.

As to the soup - the etiquette that I was taught was to fill the spoon by moving it away from you i.e. you start at the side of the bowl closest to you and then move the spoon towards the centre of the bowl. Once the spoon is full you then raise it to your mouth.

The soup thing should say, “You should always move the soup away from your lap,” which is how Miss Manners put it. In other words, when you put your spoon into the bowl, you should dip the soup with the far edge of the spoon rather than the edge nearest you. Then you move the spoon gracefully to your mouth and tip the soup in by tilting the spoon towards your lips (rather than sticking the entire bowl of the spoon into your mouth, say, or slurping the soup off of it). I suppose this phrase was meant to deal only with the niceties of loading the spoon, so to speak, and not of unloading it.

Are you referring to the 2 fingered “V” (palm forward) or 2 fingers together (palm rearward). After watching older British sitcoms I believe their use of 2 fingers together means “up your’s” or “up your nose”.

I think i’ts important that the English speaking colonies get their signals straight.

That website has popped up a couple of times on the board. To be fair, some of the suggestions there are reasonable but the ones about thumbs up and V are, to put it mildly, bullshit.

No the V thing is correct, considering that they say “palm inward”.

Palm outwards means “victory”, palm inwards “up yours”

It can be used in an offensive way in Australia, though this is perhaps a little old-fashioned. However, if an Australian used a thumb-up in an offensive way, it would be quite different from the way an American would give a friendly thumb up: you would know that the Australian was mimicking doing something pretty obscene to you. In any case, Australians all watch foreign TV and films, and know that the gesture means something different in other cultures: they might be amused, but they are unlkikely to be offended.

Other bullshit on that website:

Well, no, you just catch their eye. Raise your hand if necessary. Don’t beckon the fricking waiter.

It’s not rude. It could be considered a pick-up attempt, but it’s not rude.

Not that I’ve ever seen, with work meals or friend meals. Splitting the bill is the norm, unless someone makes an attempt to do otherwise. And if they try, you shouldn’t let them pay without a fight.

It’d be the guest of honou, and no, they’re seated wherever they want to sit. Pre-chosen seating is rare except for a formal banquet, that kind of thing.


Well, duh. What’s the other option - everyone in a meeting dressed like Crocodile Dundee?

If you’re invited to my house, you’re damned well bringing some booze.

Don’t comment on anyone’s accent. Accents often distinguish social class.

Indeed. And one doesn’t want to irritate the working class, does one? They become quite irate when one picks them up on their grammar.

Taxi’s right, but does anyone anywhere ride in the front seat of a limousine? Does anyone anywhere hire a limo without intending to put on airs?

Thumbs up - not offensive

V sign - What Princhester said

Eating soup - you tilt the bowl away from you, so the soup collects in the far side of the bowl and then scoop the soup up by moving the spoon away from your body. This minimises risk of splashing soup on yourself, as the bowl acts as a barrier.

All the rest is pretty accurate, except :
“Do not say “I’m stuffed” after a meal. This means you are pregnant.”
This is not right.

A hear some otherwise rugged Australians get a bit nervous when a large Tongan named John Hopoate gives the thumbs up, or even a finger up for that matter.

Goddamit Gaudere will you stop that.

I didn’t pick up as many errors as Atticus Finch - what he said.

Up yours, Hitler!

This came as a surprise to me. Any other countries where this happens? New Zealand?

Doesn’t a single passenger get in the back if (s)he wants a bit of peace and quiet, a kip or to use a laptop?

Don’t you feel obliged to chat to the driver if you seat in the front? Otherwise, what’s the point? And if you clamber in the front and don’t talk, you look even more stuck up.

I generally sit in the front seat when I get a taxi. I used to do the same thing in New Zealand when I lived there. If you’re telling the taxi driver which route to take it’s much easier to do so from the front passenger seat. Ditto with paying the fare.

But it really depends upon the circumstances and each passenger’s preference. Single women will often get into the back seat, particularly at night, and I don’t think anyone would intepret such an action as “stuck up”.

Well, women have to give directions and pay fares as much as men. So, what it comes down to is that if you’re a woman, it’s okay to sit in the back, and if you’re a man it’s frowned on as “getting a bit above your station, mate”?

No, I don’t think so. As I said earlier, it’s really a matter of personal preference. I know plenty of men who always sit in the back seat. But I generally sit in the front. I enjoy chatting with the driver. There’s more leg room. It’s easier to give directions and pay the fare. Others prefer sitting in the back.

So another thumbs down to the website for taxi etiquette.