Rude hand gestures in the UK: Flicking the V’s

As it’s Monday and the start of a new week, this is probably a good time to do something a little bit different than normal…something naughty. So let’s look at something that students always love: rude hand gestures in English culture! The thing that students love the most is learning how to swear (saying ‘bad’ words) and in the video below, we learn about both! Rude hand gestures in the UK: Flicking the Vs

Rude hand gestures in the UK: Flicking the VsYou definitely won’t learn this kind of thing from a textbook, but I think it’s very important to know the ‘real’ things that happen in culture and insulting and abusing people happens everyday. So let’s learn a little bit about it! Rude hand gestures in the UK: Flicking the Vs

Watch the video and hopefully the pictures will help you understand exactly what I am saying. Below the video is a transcript of what I say about rude hand gestures. Some of the words are highlighted in bold and then explained in the glossary.

Rude Hand Gestures in the UK

Rude Hand Gestures Transcript

So, here are some hand gestures and an explanation of what they mean to normal people in Britain. Of course we can shake hands and show friendship, but it’s much more interesting to talk about the rude and insulting gestures, isn’t it? This means that ‘You’re a wanker’. This is the most insulting hand movement in the UK and if you use it, you’ll probably end up in a fight. Here’s a young Tony Blair, ex-Prime Minister, showing us how to do it properly. This is called “flicking the v’s” and it’s an insult if you’re English. Don’t confuse it with V for Victory, as copyrighted by Winston Churchill. At the start of the war, Churchill flicked the V’s at his enemies, but then changed it halfway through to be more positive. Here’s an updated version from Liam Gallagher of Oasis, proving he’s hard. Here’s John Lennon with V as a sign of peace. Here’s Liam again showing that he can use both hands. This means ‘peace’. In the UK, this means ‘piss off’. Can you see the difference?
Another insult is called ‘giving the finger’ and is probably the most universally understood hand gesture. This is the wrong way to do it. That’s also a finger, but not insulting, Thank God. Of course we got it from America and it can be done by the young, or the old, but is it really insulting anymore, or is it just something to do in a photo? Us Brits prefer to use 2 fingers to insult someone, but we have learnt to do it with just one. If you give someone the finger, make sure there are no distractions. Here’s Liam again, proving that he’s multi-talented. This isn’t quite right. This guy is happy, because he knows how to insult someone properly. Are you sick of these hand gestures yet? Well, don’t worry, there’s only a few left to go. This means ‘You’re crazy’, or ‘I’m crazy’. This is of course, “You’re a loser’, or “I’m a loser” and it’s so easy that even Royals can do it. This means perfect, or everything’s OK, but don’t do it in Germany because there it means, “You’re an asshole”. This also means, “Great”, “Fantastic”, “Perfect”… I don’t know what this means. And this is a sign of peace from the future, which means, “Live long and prosper”.


Vocabulary Glossary

very offensive insult used to abuse sb: literal meaning – sb who masturbates
flicking the v’s
sticking up 2 fingers at sb as an insult
halfway through
in the middle of sth
showing that sth is true
slang: sb who is aggressive, crazy and you should not get into an argument or fight with them
piss off
an aggressive and angry way to tell sb to ‘go away’ (not as strong as ‘fuck off’, which is VERY aggressive)
universally understood
‘everybody knows what it means’
sth that stops you giving full attention or focus on sth
sb who can do lots of different things very well
sick of sth
annoyed or bored of sth
a person who is very unsuccessful in life
an aggressive way to describe a person that you don’t like


Rude hand gestures in the UK: Flicking the Vs

Google+ Comments

Bren Brennan Posted by on Mar 19 2012. Filed under Vocabulary. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

4 Comments for “Rude hand gestures in the UK: Flicking the V’s”

  1. Çiğdem Engin

    Hi Bren,
    The first hand gesture I learnt from a British friend was ‘Loser’! Well, it may not be the perfect one to start =)
    And I don’t think I’ll need to use them even though I know them all now =) But this article can help respond appropriately :)

    • :) Well, you probably found out that ‘loser’ is used in an affectionate, humorous way quite a lot…and not too seriously. Wasn’t that your experience?

  2. Çiğdem Engin

    Yes, it was. I wasn’t offended at all because it was used just after a game =)
    Well, I was the next winner, so… :) )

  3. what about the English gesture when one has one hand behind the head and the other hand on in front and up with a an open palm?

Leave a Reply

Learn English in London

Recently Commented

  • Bren Brennan: To enter the competition DO NOT COMMENT HERE. Write your answer in the GOOGLE+ comment section above!!!
  • Bren Brennan: HI JOSEBA, In my free time I go footing???? I play football / I go hiking ???? or something else. One...
  • Bren Brennan: HI GORKA, In general terms, for in my mind, business small talk is quite easy mainly because they are...
  • Bren Brennan: HI ASIER, Yes, I play basketball in Hernani. I started playing it when I was 12 years old and the more...
  • Bren Brennan: HI UNAI, From my point of view business small talks are is not difficult to understand because of they...