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Two-finger salute,gesture

By the time most Americans hit the fourth grade, they are familiar with a playground gesture so easy, so simple, it seems too effortless to be an obscenity. The bird. The finger. Oh, glorious vulgarity.

In England, though the middle finger is still a no-no, airmen have to watch out for an equally offensive (though lesser-known) hand gesture: the two-finger salute. The gesticulation is essentially the same, just with the index finger added. It’s like the “V” for victory turned around so the palm faces the flipper.

Origins of the gesture are unclear. A prevalent (but highly disputed) legend traces it back to English bowmen. They waved the fingers at French enemies who threatened to amputate those same crucial digits from any bow-toting prisoners.

Regardless, in modern times, American airmen should be careful: Resting a chin in a palm, ordering a pair of pints — with hand gestures, these activities could take on an unintended meaning.

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