According to Desmond Morris (Gestures, 1979) the old, widespread, mocking gesture known as ‘thumbing your nose (at someone)’ may be ‘a crude pastiche’ of a fan gesture. Though it’s unlikely to be the original source the mild resemblance has probably played a role at the time when fans were very popular. The gesture is also known as Queen Anne’s Fan, Spanish Fan, and Japanese Fan.
Can’t afford a fan to blow someone off? Just cock a snook at him!
Source: PUNCH, OR THE LONDON CHARIVARI. VOL. 1., p10, JULY 17, 1841. (online)
Here are some online manuals or dictionaries: Fan Language which seems to be mirrored here as 32 Victorian Fan Signs. And here is Spanish fan language where it appears still to be taught. I suspect a system of fan gestures was restricted to the court where it was used. These Spanish signs are different from the Victorian ones. More fan language is shown here at Kara’s Flamenco Page.
I love you – Tomorrow – Write me – I Can’t – I’m Alone – Stop – Yes (Bleschunov Museum). Would you get the hint? Is contemporary etiquette so loose that such messages are simply said?