A Nice Gesture by Jeroen Arendsen

Various personal interests and public info, gesture, signs, language, social robotics, healthcare, innovation, music, publications, etc.

Perception of Vulgarity

Dark Damian, blogging at Almost Infamous, wrote a nice piece on a gesture he calls the shocker. He saw it on the television. Thousands of other people did not see it apparently.

Is this man making an obscene gesture? (for the answer check Dark Damian)

To be frank I missed it too. I did not know the gesture. Next time I will be more alert.

I think this sort of ‘vulgarity’ is perceived much the same was as insulting gestures. Some people are sensitive to it while others do not see it. That makes it easy to explain what happened here. Damian knows the gesture and appears to be a focused TV watcher (or at least with certain sporting events). Therefore the gesture that was intended as a shocker reached his eyes but not those of more innocent or less alert couch potatoes.


History of the Nod


Dutch Gesture and Sign Language Theses Online


  1. Dark Damian

    Thanks for the link! I’ve only recently been made aware of “the shocker” by a few friends, so when I saw it, it stood out like a neon sign. Upon doing my Wikipedia research, it’s apparently pretty widespread – in fact, the Wichita State University sports teams all use the gesture to represent the school, given that the nickname for the team is “The Shockers”. This made me laugh. Imagine if knowledge of what this gesture represents becomes widespread – it’ll be the equivilent of calling your team “The Middle Fingers”.

  2. Mike V

    Some sports teams have used this gesture long before it was known as the shocker. University of Houston’s ‘Paw’ gesture comes to mind, so again it is in the persception. Some people are ‘shocked’ and others see a sports symbol.

  3. Jeroen Arendsen

    Damian, do you think the ‘USC Schocka’ refers to the vulgar meaning or is a sign of support for a sports team? What was the intention behind it? It may be that meaning, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder as much as it is in the coding of the message.

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