A Few Thoughts from Aunt Doris: The Two-Fingered Salute

This is another post in an occasional series from my dear Aunt Doris, who passed away in 2015 at the age of 94.

Winston Churchill saluting the Germans during WWII.

As I’ve said before, the English and Americans do have their differences.

One day, when I was 89-years-old and recovering in the hospital from knee surgery, I noticed an older gentleman using a walker who was passing by my room. Thinking he had the same operation as me I called out, “Looking good!”

He replied with what he thought was the “V” for victory sign. Unfortunately, what he gave me was quite the opposite. So I smiled and said to him, “You probably don’t realize it, but you just gave me the English equivalent of the American one-fingered salute!” (We call it the ‘gentle insult.’)

Startled by my response, he hurried on his way.

The next day, the same gentleman passed by my room, only this time he stopped and gave me a “thumbs up” sign. That made me laugh.


Aunt Doris

Legend has it that the two-fingered salute started in Medieval times. When English archers were captured, the enemy cut off their two fingers so they could no longer launch their arrows.

So when an able-bodied archer faced the enemy they showed their two fingers, and yelled a couple of choice words to show they were ready for battle.

I’ve often wondered about the origins of the one-fingered salute. Could it have been born in the Wild West as a result of battles between gunslingers?

Probably not, because that’s the wrong finger.

It doesn’t matter. Both salutes are a handy gesture (no pun intended) when you can’t think of the right words to say!

Ta ta for now!

Aunt Doris


  1. 1


    I love aunt doris. What a gift it is to have her stories shared for all to hear. I can see where you get your sense of humor from Len.

    The old man probably thought he was being hit on. I hear that in the nursing homes, the women far outnumber the men, so they get a lot of attention from the ladies.

  2. 4

    Jack says

    You learn something new every day. I guess I’ll be more careful with my hand gestures the next time I find myself in London and I want 2 orders of fish and chips.

  3. 5


    Aunt Doris,

    What do you think about Adele and M.I.A. giving the one-fingered version of the two finger salute on television lately? Refreshing or obnoxious?

  4. 7

    DC says

    Watching Red Dwarf in the early 1990’s taught me the two-finger salute, when occasionally a skutter (a one-armed maintenance ‘bot) would give Arnold Rimmer a richly deserved salute. :)

    Another unintentional insult (I think this is still true today): If you are in Italy, don’t pick at your teeth with your thumb. You just might be “biting your thumb” at someone who will take offense.

    Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
    I do bite my thumb, sir.
    Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
    No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir.


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