Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 10-30-2005, 07:53 PM
Join Date: Aug 2003
Location: Arizona
Posts: 12,262
The "Shame, shame" sign.

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, 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.
Old 10-30-2005, 08:04 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Richmond, VA
Posts: 22,536
Apparently, the origin of this gesture is unknown:
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?
Old 10-31-2005, 12:31 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Mar 1999
Location: Anderson, IN,USA
Posts: 14,741
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!"
When I make a To-Do list, the first item is "Make a list." That way, I can cross one item off right away.

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 02:51 PM.

Send questions for Cecil Adams to: [email protected]

Send comments about this website to:

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.)

Copyright 2018 STM Reader, LLC.

Copyright © 2017
Best Topics: nickelodeon the x's corleone meaning underwear pocket tms experience 1800gotjunk cost track fedex trucks roll of cash baseball rhe lightest liquid pitching woo definition captain queeg ball bearings how long can a generator run comme ci comme ça tonsil stone stuck in crypt south park goat singer 100 watt candelabra base led bulbs what is the difference between violet and purple how does cocaine affect you sexually why is snap on so expensive bacon number adolf hitler what are pickling cucumbers