We New Yorkers are accustomed to risking life and limb to cross the street, but sometimes the offense of getting cut off by a wayward taxi is enough to turn even the most mild-mannered among us into bird-flipping maniacs. But given such a scenario, what would be the appropriate gestural response in, say, Paris, Beirut, or Mumbai? Let Rude Hand Gestures of the World, a new book by Romana Lefevre, be your guide for those situations when words fall short.
Here, we present a sample from the book’s 50 examples, ranging from ways to curse out a perfect stranger to expressing sexual interest. A word of advice: If unsure of which gesture to use, the safest diplomatic approach may be to avoid communicating with your hands altogether, as meanings aren’t universal: The seemingly benign sign for OK (thumb and index finger forming an “O” with the other digits splayed), for instance, isn’t a sign of approval in such nations as Greece, Italy, Paraguay, and Turkey, where it refers to a delicate orifice–exactly which one depends on the region. So on that note, enjoy!
[Images from Rude Hand Gestures of the World, by Romana Lefevre, photographs by Daniel Castro, published by Chronicle Books]