Sign language – kind of…

Do you and your partner have a hidden language? You know, that nod of the head or a raised eyebrow that sort of says “let’s get out of here”. We communicate more by signs than we think we do and our faces and eyes are usually dead giveaways.

Then there is the sign language of the hands – the bad things you say to other people with your hands that is. It is different in every country around the world. Having grown up in England it was very common if you were mad with someone to give them the “two’s up” – this sign –

Interesting history of this sign – it goes back to the days of Agincourt as reported in wiki and the sign was seen as a threat from the English archers to the French that if they caught them they would chop off those two fingers. Well you can imagine, they wouldn’t be much good as archers without those fingers.

But then we turned the fingers around and it became, in the second world war, a sign of Victory and then in the ’60’s it just meant “Hey peace man”. Nowadays it is very popular in Asian culture and you will often see Asian tourists posing for photos with the V sign/ peace sign.

Travelling from one country to another you will come across different signs and some you will not understand. Now that I have told you what the English two’s up sign means you will be well equipped to deal with your next traffic jam in Britain. But what about in France? Well you can give them the chin flick. Otherwise known as la barbe (the beard). Just a flick of the hand under your chin tells the other person to basically get lost – but this sign is for guys. Sorry ladies – there are plenty out there that we can do.

This is the famous lip curl. A look of disdain or disgust. I was good at this as a child. So good that I used to get told off all the time and my dad told me that when I grew up my face would stay like that. So I practised not being disdainful. But it can come in handy ladies – and you don’t have to have a beard. Plus I am pretty sure that this would be recognised all over the world by any man or woman. So – universal!

There are other signs – some with no name. Such as when you are standing at the counter at the check in desk waiting to speak to an agent and you start drumming your fingers on the countertop – almost as if you are typing out your own reservation….

Yep – that check in agent will get the message pretty quickly that you are impatient – even if you are smiling. Your conscious self smiles because you know that only they can help, but your unconscious self is frustrated and impatient – and she can see it!

You can really really communicate with people without saying a word. And not just with your hands or your fingers – with your whole body. When was the last time you went on a flight and sat next to a stranger? You know that moment of not really making eye contact and then tucking in your jacket so as to make sure that it doesn’t even come close to touching the person next to you. That is basically saying to that person “look, we have to sit together for 3 hours on this flight. I don’t know you. I don’t want to know you. Let’s just pretend there is a giant glass wall here between us.”

If that doesn’t work you could always buy a blanket …. just sayin’


By Lesley Keyter

Lesley Keyter is the face of travel in the fast growing city of Calgary. Every week since 1997 she has has featured live on the Morning News Global TV.


    1. That’s right. Now we have google translate but before that, if you went into a really small town in Europe or somewhere in Asia you had to do the mime to get across what you needed to communicate. Quite fun actually because you both end up laughing!

      Liked by 1 person

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