The Mini-Adventures Of Wright-Phillips And The V Sign Hand Gesture


On Wednesday night, Middlesbrough manager Gareth Southgate became incensed when Man City’s Shaun Wright-Phillips dived to win a foul. After the dimunitive star was substituted, Southgate and Wright-Phillips got into a verbal spat that resulted in SWP giving the two-fingered salute to Southgate.

Now, SWP may face a FA charge of bringing the game into disrepute.

Some of you may be wondering, what’s the big deal about what Subbuteo’s Shaun Wright-Phillips did, right? Let me tell you.

Giving someone the two fingers is definitely a huge cultural difference between the United States and United Kingdom. In the United States, it’s used quite often when someone wants to non-verbally communicate the number two. “Dude, how many times have the Phillies won the World Series?” And the two fingers would go up, especially if the dude had his mouth full and was eating a philly cheesesteak.

In the United Kingdom, it means f**k you and has the same meaning as the preferred American one-finger salute.

Being British and living in the United States, I can’t tell how you how many times Americans have unknowingly raised two fingers in my face, with palm pointed inward, and I’ve had to try to keep my composure. I’ve had professors do it to my face. I’ve had bosses do it, without knowing what they were non-verbally saying to me. Oftentimes, I’ve felt like jumping out and telling them to stop as what they’re doing is offensive. But because they don’t realize what they’re doing, I internalize those feelings and shrug them off.

Until now.

While SWP’s gesture to Southgate was in poor form, it did allow me to teach some Americans a lesson about when not to use the two fingered salute. Interestingly, Winston Churchill used in during early periods of World War II to convey victory, but soon changed it to have the palm pointed outward instead of inward. Nowadays, the V sign with palm pointed outward communicates peace.

ashley_cole-v-sign2.jpgThe story of how the V sign originated is fascinating. Check out the passage about bowfinger on Wikipedia.

One more story about the V sign. I admit, I’ve used it myself to show my anger at Americans before. Sometimes I’ve done it without thinking. Only afterwards do I suddenly realize that they must have been wondering what an idiot I was, non-verbally communicating the number two again and again. “Two, what?” they must have been wondering. But I’ve also done the two finger salutes to Americans when I want to vent but I knowingly don’t want them to know exactly what I’m communicating. It happens quite often for me during road rage incidents. The last thing I want to do is cause the driver to ram me off the road or pull out a gun, so a lovely two-fingered salute diffuses the situation, makes me feel good and gives me a wry smile.

In the case of Shaun Wright-Phillips giving the V sign gesture to Gareth Southgate, both gentlemen knew what the salute meant, so it’s only right that the FA look into the situation. If the referee reported it as an incident, then SWP may find himself being fined or, worse, banned. It all seems a bit harmless to me, but in some ways the FA needs to step in to send a message that this type of behavior shouldn’t be allowed week-in week-out in the league.

For the rest of us, though, we can spend our weekend giving the V sign to friends or strangers. If you’re American, you just have to hope that the other bloke isn’t reading this blog or isn’t a connoisseur of British hand gestures. You have been warned.


  1. Lucas October 31, 2008
  2. Claudio November 6, 2008
  3. kyle July 13, 2009
  4. Andre September 19, 2009

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