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The Ring

This gesture was popularised in the USA during the early nineteenth century by the newspapers that were starting a craze or using initials to shorten common phrases. There are many different views about what the initials 'OK' originally stood for, some believing it stood for 'all correct' which was regularly misspelled as 'oil korrect', while others say that it means the opposite of 'knock-out' that is, KO.

'OK' to a Westerner, 'money' to a Japanese, 'zero' to the French and insulting to the Turks and Brazilians  

Another popular theory is that it is an abbreviation of 'Old Kinderhook', from the birthplace of a nineteenth-century American president who used the initials as a campaign slogan. It's obvious that the ring itself represents the letter 'O' in the 'OK' signal. The 'OK' meaning is common to all English-speaking countries and its meaning is fast spreading everywhere due to American television and movies, but it has other origins and meanings in certain places. For example, in France and Belgium it also means 'zero' or 'nothing'. In a Paris restaurant one evening, the waiter showed us to our table and asked, 'Is the table OK?' We flashed him the OK signal and he responded, 'Well, if you don't like it here we'll find you another table...' He had interpreted the OK signal as meaning 'zero' or 'worthless' - in other words, he thought we had communicated that we didn't like the table.

Use the 'OK' gesture to tell a French person their cooking is wonderful and they'll probably throw you out.

In Japan it can mean 'money'; if you're doing business in Japan and you make this sign for 'OK' a Japanese may think you're asking them for a bribe. In some Mediterranean countries it's an orifice signal, often used to infer that a man is homosexual. Show a Greek man the OK signal and he may thinkyou're inferring you or he is gay, while a Turk might thinkyou're calling him an 'arsehole'. It's rare in Arab countries where it is used as either a threat signal or as an obscenity.

In the 1950s, before he became President, Richard Nixon visited Latin America on a goodwill tour to try to patch up strained relations with the locals. As he stepped out of his plane he showed the waiting crowds the American 'OK' signal and was stunned as they began booing and hissing at him Being unaware of local body language customs, Nixon's OK signal had been read as 'You're all a bunch of arseholes.'

If you travel internationally, the safest rule is to always ask the locals to show you their insult signals to avoid any possible embarrassing circumstances.

Date: 2015-01-12; view: 760

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