In Scott Turow's legal mystery The Last Trial, the point of view character is an old man. Pinky is his grand-daughter. The following passage occurs near the end of the book:

Pinky says nothing to him [Lep], but instead strikes one index finger against the other, as if making fire. The gesture seems comical, but Lep stops cold when he takes in the fierce look Pinky is giving him.

What is the meaning of this gesture? Is it something that only young people would be acquainted with?

1 Answer 1


As described, and being unfamiliar with the work in question, this would appear to the the North American finger gesture for 'shame'. per Wikipedia

Shame is symbolized in North America by rubbing the back of one forefinger with the other forefinger

There are a number of similar gestures in different cultures, as illustrated in these two screenshots taken from Google Books

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  • 1
    Since this North American shaming gesture is similar to several old-country insulting gestures and they appear to be related, I wonder if it isn't dated and possibly dates people. I don't think it is commonly used among younger generations.
    – Eddie Kal
    Sep 23, 2020 at 15:24
  • @Spagirl: that makes perfect sense. And the point of view character didn't understand it, not because he was old, but because he was Argentinian.
    – Peter Shor
    Sep 23, 2020 at 15:27
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    @EddieKal I didn't include in the answer as i didn't have a source, but I am fairly sure I've read before that this gesture is both regional within North America and one that is primarily used among children or towards children. I may have looked it up before because of its use in the Simpsons, sine the gesture isn't common in the UK where am.
    – Spagirl
    Sep 23, 2020 at 15:43
  • @EddieKal In Flanders and in Germany, rubbing one forefinger over the forefinger pointing at another person (as in "forefingers scrape (1)") is used by children to express derision or gloating. The meaning "insult" is a bit imprecise, if you ask me.
    – Tsundoku
    Sep 23, 2020 at 16:15
  • Interesting how much these simple gestures differ even in relatively small regions. I'm from Britain, either close to or sharing a common language with most of the regions mentioned in this answer, and all of these are completely unfamiliar to me.
    – Rand al'Thor
    Sep 23, 2020 at 17:10

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