Under attack

Even those two words, ‘Under attack’, probably bring you to specific moments or memories or situations in your life.  They are probably uncomfortable, maybe very difficult, and potentially ones that you don’t like to talk about.

You may have been the innocent party, the one trying to share something with someone, trying to show something to someone, or be something with/for/around someone, that had their heart stepped on.

You might have been the bully in the situation, the one who received the gift that was given by the innocent party, the one who was shared with, showed something special, or was around someone trying to be unique, and you unceremoniously stepped on their heart.

This is serious business we’re talking about here today.  Serious enough that I wanted to write a blog post about it.

I’m talking of course, about: finger guns.

Wikipedia defines the finger gun as:
The finger gun is a hand gesture in which the subject uses their hand to mimic a handgun, raising their thumb above their fist to act as a hammer, and one or two fingers extended perpendicular to it acting as a barrel. The middle finger can also act as the trigger finger.

The much embattled finger gun is found in many a cinematic masterpiece.

  • Robert De Niro in the 1976 Martin Scorsese movie Taxi Driver
  • Rowan Atkinson in the 1997 Mel Smith movie Bean
  • The Office, South Park, Gran Torino, Spaced, Crank, Jeepers Creepers 2, Scott Pilgrim vs The World, Team Fortress 2, Stranger Things, and many more

The finger gun was first made popular by someone in the past who recognized the incredible cultural impact of using your hands to be a pretend gun, to indicate either that you were an imaginary cowboy (either of the Old West or Space variety) or to indicate that you think something is ‘awesome’.  The very first use of the finger gun in real life or popular media is probably available in some documentary or newspaper clipping.

But the point is, it’s a pervasive way of communicating that has had ebbs and flows in culture, even (and sadly including) the much maligned ’emo’ scene in Spider-Man 3 where Peter Parker does ‘that’ dance and walk in the street.

Finger guns are an easy way of communicating ‘you got it buddy’ or ‘yessiree’ or other similar affirmative gestures.  It is also a way of communicating ‘pew pew’ in an efficient way, when other options do not exist (such as Nerf guns, etc) to communicate a similar sound.

“Why am I still reading this?”
– You

First of all, if you are still reading this:

Finger guns at you buddy.  🙂

Secondly, hopefully if you’ve been reading ‘The Lion’s Share’ for a bit, you realize I usually have a point to make with my ridiculous analogies.

I won’t lie, I was very very tempted to straight-face my way through this with no analogy at all, because I’m sure it would have generated some great eye rolls and ridiculous discussions, if not a brief spike in finger gun usage (although probably in mockery).

Before I continue, let me stress this: I totally think the single finger gun reply to a question (to indicate an affirmative) is completely awesome.  The double finger gun has a very specific set of circumstances where you aren’t being a total goon if you use it, but there exists a set of them.  Probably.

“Get to the point.”
– You

Working on it.

  • Thumbs up
  • Single finger used to beckon you over
  • Horn fingers / corna (used by rockstars and such)
  • Looking at your watch (or imaginary one)
  • The ‘ok’ sign (index finger touching thumb)
  • The peace sign or ‘V’ sign
  • The Vulcan salute (two fingers on either side of hand separated by a V)
  • The Shaka sign (thumb and pinky out and rest of fingers in a fist, shaking it back and forth)
  • Bellamy salute / Heil Hitler salute
  • High five
  • Hand over heart

That’s just a short list of examples, eleven out of hundreds if not thousands, to indicate how pervasive and integrated hand symbols are in culture.  This isn’t even including sign language, which is literally a language of hand symbols.

All of those mean things to you, have history with you (even if not very long), and conjure up an enjoyable or unhappy image in your mind when you imagine them.  They could be benign or ridiculous, simple or complex, or ones you just don’t see often.  But they mean something to you and to others who either use or receive them.

A few examples:

  • Thumbs up in the USA means ‘Good job’ or ‘Nice!’ or similar.  In some parts of the Middle East, it’s a highly offensive ‘thumbs down’ (even if your thumb is obviously not pointing down).
  • The ‘ok’ sign is simply that in the USA, but in Brazil is an incredibly offensive one
  • Horn fingers / corna typically in the USA mean you think or want to indicate something is ‘awesome’ or so on, but in many Mediterranean and Latin countries, you use it to communicate to someone that their spouse is cheating on them
  • The Bellamy salute, prior to World War 2, was used in the USA as our way of saluting the flag (in schools, etc), but obviously afterwards, much like the swastika, the meaning was completely over-ridden and re-branded in a very negative way

Gestures are incredible in their potent power to non-verbally communicate complex (or simple) ideas in a very short space of time.  They don’t even usually need context, as (for example) someone could see a total stranger and throw them a ‘peace sign’ and without really thinking, that stranger could reply in kind, or with ‘flipping the bird’ (the middle finger) to indicate something less savory.

Honestly, it’s sort of like internet speak but in the real world, without being spoken.  Shorthand, not necessarily slang, but almost like a constant and not usually changing meme being shared.

“So when I give someone the Vulcan salute, it’s like I’m real-world communicating in a way similar to when I share the latest ‘animal advice’ Reddit meme that’s scouring the internet?”
– You, probably

In short, I feel like that is a good way of summarizing hand gestures and signals.  The reason that I feel that way is that memes don’t really change much.  You can go back to the annuls of the internet and dig deep into the mines of the minds in the past, and unearth some gems.  It’s pretty amazing thinking about how trapped in time they are, and how unchanging they can be.

Grumpy Cat with words will always be a certain kind of joke.  Cats with words (LoLCats) will always call to mind ‘I Can Haz Cheezburger’.  Star Wars Kid or Tron Guy will always be associated with certain feelings and ideas.  And that’s not touching anything with audio, as obviously there are tons of very memorable meme-type audio things forever associated with subjects or memories or feelings.  (Numa Numa anyone?  Badger Badger?  Ask a Ninja or Charlie Bit My Finger or David After Dentist?)

So back to finger guns.  Because that’s what started this post, this ridiculous post about gestures.  Every gesture is under attack.  I’m sort of joking a bit by saying it, but really, if you make a gesture you think is appropriate and even amusing, it might not be accepted as such because it’s not ‘current’ or ‘hip’ any more.

If you make a finger gun in response to a question through the drive thru (‘Do you want sauce with that?’) then you might be met with mockery from your wife (not that I had this happen this past weekend), and have to try to justify it.

“Oh Lord, another social justice post.”
– You, still reading for some reason

That’s exactly where I’m going, dear reader.

This fire was started with a simple bit of kindling and a spark.  A reminder that we live in an ever changing society, one that always chases the latest thing to mock, to love, to desire, and to rally around.  We always want something to root for or pledge undying support to (or change our Facebook picture to ‘support’ without actually doing anything to support it), or something to angrily argue about or condemn people over or hate people for.

No matter who you are, it’s not cool to be uncool.  You don’t want to be caught dead saying things that are not still current, referencing social things that are from a month ago, or wearing clothing that isn’t the current style.  (But hang onto it, retro is all the rage, at least, when it’s the rage again.)

A race to the next thing.  That’s all this life has become.  A race to the next minute of information, a chase for the next controversy, a sprint to the next way to be ahead of the curve, or a mad dash to remain relevant.  Whether that’s supporting the current super important causes for super important issues that someone on TV or Facebook or some rando blog told you about, or whipping out that credit card (or PayPal) to buy some piece of clothing that your favorite fashionista (I don’t know what the dude version of that word is) is wearing and you just can’t be caught dead wearing what you’re wearing now!

It could be a simple as a faded hat that you’ve worn for a decade or a poster you keep on your wall because it means something to you, or a catch phrase you’ve used since High School.  But it’s always changing.  We always change the game, almost always just as soon as people are finally catching up.  Because that’s how people stay ahead of the normies, they change the rules, the destination, the goals.  They make it so that they are already there, and you’re just gasping for air while you try desperately to keep them in view.

Let me encourage you right now.  If you want to say ‘Cowabunga’ because you think Bart Simpson (or The Ninja Turtles) are awesome, or that’s just your thing, then please do it.  If you want to use the ‘peace sign’ all the time because you love what it means where you are from, then peace out (wo)man.  If you want to wear socks with sandals then I begrudgingly tell you: go for it.  Whatever.  Who cares!  If it makes you happy and isn’t harming anyone, then whatever.

Hand gestures and similar things (hands in pockets, keeping shoes on, giving gifts, shaking hands, etc) have many meanings all over the world.  It’s probably a very wise idea to validate that your favorite gesture doesn’t mean something entirely different in another country, before you go around and get in trouble.

But that’s a conversation about making sure your message is being received by your recipient, not whether or not your gesture is fashionable, and an entirely different point to be made in another post probably.  Because it is important to make sure your meaning is getting across.  But it’s also important not to let the world rain on your parade just because they think your way of communicating (phrasing, clothing, exclamations, catch phrases, gestures, etc) is out of date.

And let me tell you something.  Finger guns are always fashionable.  And usually received with message intact.  That something is awesome.

“I think I regret reading this.”
– You, most likely

It’s cool (wo)man.  Thanks for stopping by.  Have a great day!  /FingerGunSalute


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