February 24, 2005

Cursor Words, or, Offensive Gestures of the Future

Someone had sent me a link to something entirely unrelated (a page about the mysteries of the In-n-Out fast food menu) today and that led me to notice that the same site had a page about the origins of the gesture of giving someone the finger:
In 1415, before the Battle of Agincourt, the French were anticipating a great victory over the English.  The French proposed to cut off the middle fingers of all captured English soldiers, thus making it impossible for the English soldiers to draw the renowned longbow and making them incapable of fighting in the future. This famous weapon was made of the native English yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew."

This got me thinking about what might be the offensive gestures of the future? (Alas, Google knows not a thing about such a query.)

For instance, at some point, people are going to stop using mice, once we all have datagloves or better yet, some sort of sensing device that watches your body language and interprets gestures as instructions for interacting with a computer application.

But are there mice gestures now, or simply jargon related to windows-icon-mouse-pointer (WIMP) interfaces, that in decades (or more likely) centuries hence, would be considered outrageous insults or profanities?

"Go click yourself!"

"Cancel you!"

"Drag and drop!"

How about physical gestures related to present-day mouse use? I can imagine a hand gesture where it appears you're holding a mouse, and draging it angrily down and to the right, as if you were taking a document and tossing it in the Mac's trash can? Or another hand gesture where again it appears you're holding a mouse, and you extend your index finger and then make a motion as if you were clicking the left button of your mouse? Which reminds me: TV remote controls are another oddity that some day will go away, to be replaced by who knows what. I already use the gesture sometimes, in jest, of holding out my arm, with my hand curled a bit as if I am holding a TV remote control, and my thumb repeatedly pressing an imaginary channel button as if to tell the other person, "Enough of you! How do I get rid of you?"

Someone hundreds of years from now is going to write a PhD dissertation on the quaint origins of the that most offensive hand gestures, the dragging-the-icon-to-the-trashcan. (One hopes that someone else will have found it necessary to write a dissertation on what trashcans were.)

Update: Ok, I know that it turns out the "Pluck yew" anecdote above is an urban (or perhaps rural) legend. I could go on about urban legends of the future, but that's another blog posting for another time when I'm not busy. :-)

Posted by brian at February 24, 2005 04:45 PM


Hi Brian -- in passing, the "pluck yew" story is a UL. see http://www.snopes.com/language/apocryph/pluckyew.htm and http://www.straightdope.com/classics/a980904.html .

Posted by: Justin Mason at February 24, 2005 04:57 PM

Have you not seen Tron?

Zero bit.

Posted by: dave at February 25, 2005 05:45 AM

The story is a complete fabrication. Anyone that has studied that battle knows that cutting off the middle finger is a senseless act. Nobody gave two squats about bowman.

Posted by: Levin at February 25, 2005 10:02 AM

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