Among early Christians, it was known as the manus obscena, or "obscene hand".
More anciently, it was the symbol of the fertility cult of The Goddess, Tanit or Ashtarte, and it was widely represented by painted or sculpted symbols in stone and portable amulets that were carried on the person, representing the powers of her hand, hand gesture used to invoke her. The oldest of these, made in ivory, are almost 8, 000 years old and must have symbolized former cults and forms of divinities alike the later known ones.
Recently, it has also become a common term in Padonkaffsky jargon to refer to Control-Alt-Delete. Svitlana Pyrkalo, a producer at the BBC World Ukrainian Service, explained that "you need three fingers to press the buttons. So it's like telling somebody (a computer in this case) to get lost."
The letter "T" in the American manual alphabet is identical to this gesture.
- In Italy this sign, known as mano in fica ("fig-hand"), or "far le fiche" (cunt gesture), for the resemblance to female genitalia, was a common and very rude gesture in past centuries, similar to the finger, but has long since fallen out of use. Notably, a remnant of its usage is found in Dante's Divine Comedy (Inferno, Canto XXV).
- In Turkey this sign, is a widely known and highly offensive gesture that is generally done to reject an offer from someone.
- In Macedonia this gesture is known as шипка ("rose hip") and this is the expression that often accompanies the gesture: на, шипки!, literally meaning "here's some rose hips!" and figuratively "no way!".
- In Serbia, the gesture is also known as the rose hip and is used in expressive, angry, dismayed or spiteful display of nothing (in terms of quantity), or such insignificant amount of something that it's equated with nothing. Used in terms of trade, non obtained gain, spiteful message to others' threats of claiming or forcibly getting something, or simply a hand gesture for "no way!" It is not considered obscene in mainstream media and popular culture, only somewhat common and rural.
- In Greece and particularly in the Ionian Islands this gesture is still used as an alternative to the moutza. It is known as a "fist-phallus", and can be accompanied by extending the right hand while clasping the left hand under one's armpit in a derogatory manner.
- In Japan this sign is called セックス (sekkusu) and means sex. Since 1989, it has fallen into disuse.
- In Romania, this sign is called (and often accompanied by the expression) ciuciu, a slang term meaning nothing, no way, its original sense being however penis.
- In South Africa, it has the common obscene meaning(s) mentioned here, and is called commonly by its Afrikaans moniker "dê" (Eng: "deh"), "toffie" (Eng: "toffee") or "nool". It is equally if not more rude than what is known as a "zap-sign" (middle finger sign). It is sometimes accompanied by the Afrikaans expression "dê; kry vir jou" (Eng: "There, take it, it's yours").
- In Kenya this sign is used by the Maasai tribe to denote the number five.
- In Brazil this sign is known as "figas", and symbolizes wishes of good fortune.
- In Russia, it is used when denying a request. For example, when asked to hand something over, a child might make the gesture, thereby implying that they will not give it.
- In various countries, such as France, the Faroe Islands and the Czech Republic, this sign has no obscene meaning and is instead used in a game where you "steal" someones nose. You will usually do this with little children and then say "I've got your nose". The thumb represents the "stolen" nose held between your index and middle finger.
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- Hamilton, Terri. Skin Flutes & Velvet Gloves. 2007. pp.279-80.
- Adkins, Lesley (2004). Handbook to Life in Ancient Rome: p317.
- Kleinman, Zoe (16 August 2010). "How the internet is changing language". BBC News. Retrieved 16 August 2010.
- Hamiru-aqui (2008). 70 Japanese Gestures. Translated by Aileen Chang. Stone Bridge Press. pp. 98–99. ISBN 978-1933330013. Retrieved June 19, 2013.
- The definition of the word ciuciu in the Romanian Dictionary