The thumbs-up sign

When you move into a new region, you are confronted with new words, phrases, accent and even gestures. Some of them you like: you’d like to pick them up, possibly even consciously try to. Others you like less: you attempt to maintain your old ones.

Nevertheless, what you want to change or keep isn’t always what you end up with. In terms of language this means that having spent long periods of my life in three different regions, even when trying to speak the dialect of the particular area I’m currently in, I speak a hybrid language of my own instead, and people always know I’m not a “local guy” – anywhere.

(The silver lining is that I’m not frustrated by unsuccessful attemps to stick to a particular dialect of English. If people don’t mind my mixing several Czech and Moravian dialects within a single sentence, why should they mind my mixing BBC English, Lallans and Americanese, as long as they understand what I’m after?)

The same goes for gestures. I learned to show the number “two” using my thumb and my forefinger, learned to use the V-sign rather than the middle finger to communicate you know what, but for the life of me can’t learn to begin using the thumbs-up sign. As far as I can tell, I haven’t (unpremeditatedly) used it once so far.

Which is a pity because I really like it – not because, but the more so as it’s so British. (A friend of mine who works as a truck driver all over Western Europe once remarked, “As soon as a child is born in Britain they break its thumb…”)



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