(asked by Andrea from somewhere)
Someone told me that the French don’t point with their index finger, and they don’t use their index finger to indicate the number one either. Are either of these things true? If so, what’s the deal?
That someone was right. At least, mostly right.
Let’s see into more details.
Pointing with your index finger
It is considered to be rude in France (actually I thought it was in the entire Western World, I guess not). Why exactly? Not sure. Some say that it comes from the Bible where Judas points to Jesus when betraying him (I thought he kissed him? Oh, this Bible thing is very confusing, always contradicting itself, it’s amazing how so many people rely on it so much). Which in my opinion is quite unfair, look, John the Baptist is one of the most famous index pointer and nobody has a problem with it.
Hence the expression “montrer du doigt” in French (i.e. pointing with your finger) meaning denouncing or blaming.
Another theory has to do with witches and sorcerers as back in their heydays (before being massively burned to the stake) used to curse people while pointing at them with their index.
Truth is, we don’t really know where it comes from, but what we know is that when we were little kids we were being told over and over that we shouldn’t do it, and at the time we were too young to question why.
Note that this concerns pointing at people. Pointing at things, while technically not proper, is widely accepted as normal behavior. If not, how would it be possible to order your fruit at the market which is always so loud?
Counting with your fingers
Well, actually here, I have a question. Why don’t Anglos start counting with their index finger? Last I checked, most human beings had five fingers to each hand, so it only seems logical to start counting with the finger at one extremity of the hand or the other, in other terms either with the thumb or with the pinky. The French chose the thumb, it makes as much sense for other cultures to start with the pinky.
But starting with the index finger makes no sense at all.
Well, that was a short one today, but do not hesitate to comment anyway.