Date: Tue, 7 Oct 1997 16:54:52 -0500 From: "Donald M. Lance" Subject: Re: pop one's fingers >At 02:19 PM 10/3/97 -0400, you (Robert Ness ) wrote: >>Some West Africans, Ghanaians especially, "pop their fingers," as it's >>called, by flipping or snapping the wrist so that the index finger "pops" >>sharply against the thumb and middle-finger. The gesture expresses >>surprise or amazement. I've not seen it done here, or even so referred to, >>but like West African tooth-sucking (expressive of contempt) it may have >>made it across the Atlantic into the south or the Caribbean. > >The gesture you describe (where one puts the tips of the thumb and >middle-finger together and then snaps the first finger against them by >sharply moving the wrist downwards) is universally used in Brasil to express >surprise or excitement, positive or negative. Brasilians are unfamiliar with >the way people from the US snap fingers (as described by Joan Houston Hall >in the very first post in this thread), and I have never seen it done the >Brasilian way in the US though that doesn't mean it hasn't been. > >Anyway, I didn't mention in my prior post on the "finger pop" phrase that >the context of the song I cited seems to suggest that the gesture expresses >contempt or disdain (i.e., the popper/snapper doesn't care about the person >or situation s/he is popping or snapping at). > >See also OED thrip v. (with citations back to the 16C) and "finger-snap" >(under finger n.) for the idea of snapping one's fingers in contempt or to >express worthlessness etc. An electronic search of OED2 for various ways >that "to *pop* the/one's fingers" might have showed up there yielded nothing. > >Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE] ........................ Mexican American children in South Texas schools pop their fingers (as described by Robert Ness) when holding up their hands in attempting to get the teacher's attention when a question is asked of the whole class. It is done with much enthusiasm, accompanied by "Miss" or "Mister." In my memory it was universal in the 1940s, and I saw the same gesture in 1988 when I visited a sixth-grade class on the Mexican border.