Shrugs, pouts and chopped fingers

It’s great being from a country whose inhabitants are perceived as being inherently rude. It means that you can occasionally be bad-mannered and get away with it: people will just attribute your rudeness to the fact that you were brought up in France, which more or less exonerates you of any personal responsibility (she can’t help herself, she’s French!). Very handy.
To help baffled tourists cope with the very people who have allegedly turned French rudeness into an art, the dreaded Parisians, C’est so Paris ! gives a list of gestures to help visitors understand what’s going on if they are bold or foolish enough to interact with the locals (found in this Telegraph article, spotted by our resident market research wizard). You’ll see perfect examples of shrugs, pouts and other typically French ways of expressing various emotions. My "shrug of the week" has to be Nicolas Sarkozy’s during a press conference at the G8 meeting after a chat with Vladimir Putin. Did our famously teetotal President have a vodka or two during the meeting? I’ll let you be the judge of it.

While we’re on the subject of gestures, I just found out that the "V sign", used as an insult in the UK, may not date back to the time when the English and the French were constantly scrapping. The story suggested that French soldiers used to cut English archers’ index and middle fingers to stop them using their bow and arrows, which led the archers with both fingers left to stick them up at their enemies in a defiant gesture. Alas, this snopes article rather convincingly debunks another great myth. What a disappointment.

By | 2016-10-18T15:49:53+00:00 June 15th, 2007|Culture|2 Comments

About the Author:

I am Céline Graciet, a freelance English to French translator. Since 2003 I’ve been writing on all sorts of areas linked to translation and the life of a translator.


  1. anddydog June 15, 2007 at 10:30 am

    When I travelled through France a few years ago I found everyone extremely welcoming and friendly (admittedly I didn’t visit Paris on this occasion). So maybe you should stop using your Nationality as an excuse for your rudeness!
    On the subject of the ‘V’ sign origins, the Snope article claims that by murdering or mutilating prisoners this would have contradicted the medieval moral code for civilised warfare’. However, during the battle of Agincourt, Henry himself ordered the murder of the French prisoners – many of them nobility. Maybe this is just an example of English rudeness though!

  2. The Wizard June 15, 2007 at 10:30 am

    My research convincingly reveals that sticking two fingers up to the french was a way of saying that it was, once again, their turn to get the teas or the beers in.

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