Finger Business

Today’s post comes from marketing genius Spin Williams, who is always engaged in The Meeting That Never Ends.

At The Meeting That Never Ends last night we all looked at a photo that’s all over Twitter – a middle aged woman is standing next to a young man. The two of them are gesturing towards each other in that jokey way people do when they want the picture to be about the fact that they are in the same frame with THIS person.

We all thought it was charming, but the ensuing kerfuffle over Minneapolis Mayor Betsy Hodges, KSTP-TV, and #Pointergate raises an important question about your fingers.

Who owns pointing?

KSTP and some folks connected with the Minneapolis Police Department would have us believe that when you raise your thumb and direct your index finger at the person standing on the side of your body opposite that  hand, you are pledging allegiance to a group of selfish, scared, violent bullies who have taken over complete cultural control of that gesture.

No, not a media corporation. A neighborhood gang!

What got us excited was the potential of it all. What if a Minneapolis gang DOES own cross-body pointing? That would be an awesome marketing opportunity! And what about all the other gestures and multiple ways of arranging body parts? There would be a sudden “hand rush” to buy up all the possibilities. Why would anyone go to the trouble of dealing drugs and murdering if they could sue people instead over the way they arrange their fingers?

We asked our staff lawyer, Britta Mandamus, to look into it. She focused on her phone for 30 seconds and then came back with this conclusion – “You can’t trademark a hand gesture. The Internet says ‘No’.

That settled, we calmed down and moved on to other business but a minute later Britta interrupted to say “The Internet is contradicting itself – maybe you can.”

That got our juices flowing again! Immediately we started talking about taking steps to gain control of gestures and postures like that “thumbs up” and “peace”, along with that fingers-spinning-around-the-ears “crazy” signal everybody loves, and my personal favorite, arms akimbo.

We even talked about how much finger business we’d have to do before we could file a copyright infringement suit against The Pointer Sisters and the Poynter Institute.

But in the middle of that hopeful conversation Britta dashed our dreams with the news that you have to turn your gesture into a printed logo before you can protect it.

In other words, the photo that got us all excited at the marketing possibilities of hand gestures would have to be put on an “I’m with Stupid” t-shirt before we could make any money.

If you had seen our slumped postures, downcast eyes and frowny expressions in that moment, you would have wished you could trademark all of them, for they spoke volumes.

Sadly, not every day brings a victory.

Yours in Marketing,

What gesture is your trademark?

37 thoughts on “Finger Business”

  1. Rise and Shine Baboons:

    I don’t think I have a trademark gesture since I rarely flip anyone the bird. However, I do notice on recordings of my dad speaking on agriculture topics years ago, that he and I wave and spin our hands about in a similar manner. This is not really a gesture with trademark value.


  2. I’m more Irish than anything else. We are famous for being windy but not dependent on gestures for expressing ourselves. You know what you call an Italian with his hands tied? Speech impaired. But that isn’t us.

    I once was walking in Dinkytown when I recognized the guy walking just ahead of me as Tony Glover, the blues harp player in Koerner, Ray & Glover. “That’s Tony Glover!” I thought. Just then a car turned sharply and came within an inch of striking Glover. Without changing expression or even looking at the driver he whipped his arm up with the famous “F*** You!” gesture. I was stunned by how quickly and naturally the gesture was for him. It was clear that Tony Glover lived with an attitude I hadn’t seen in anyone else before. To be Tony Glover was to have a sense of conflict with the world. It was right there to be seen in that upthrust arm and extended finger.


  3. I was once in a theatre after a dress rehearsal interviewing for a job (which I did in the end get). I talked to the Artistic Director for a bit and the choreographer came up and asked, “oh, are you the person who is going to be “signing” the show”.

    This is probably one of the few ways I deviate from my German heritage.

    I do like a good solid “thumbs up”. I do not flip anyone the bird, certainly not in the car- lax gun laws and road rage are prevelant make me afraid to do anything of the sort.

    Second day of parking lot driving practice- no new dents on the car, no whiplash.

    S&h gave me the cold shoulder for a whole day after I let an expletive go when a red sports car T-boned a big white pick-up right in front of us at an intersection. I doubt he will be flipping anyone off either.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Good morning. I like the fist in the air gesture. I hardly ever use this gesture. I tend to use it on rare occasions when others are using it to show their solidarity with something said by a speaker and I agree with them

    I think the picture of the Mayor standing beside that guy and exchanging that gesture with him is okay and I like it. If a retired policeman is offended and he thinks other police would be offend, that is his problem. To me it looks like the Major has skill at relating to people in her community including a person the retired policeman seems to be too quick to condemn as a bad guy.


  5. As is my way, l’ll take this question literally and share a brief story of a former client who grew up with both parents who were deaf. He had to be their voices throughout childhood – their conduit between silence and the real world of hearing folks. One of the results of this was an extremely heightened ability to “read” other people’s faces. Almost like a 6th sense. Sadly, it also meant that he could never really be a child. As an adult, his signing skills are hotly in demand because his experience is a hybrid of hearing and not hearing.

    Last l heard, he’s begun an enterprise of taking groups of deaf people on European travel tours. Being deaf may be analogous to being in a country with a foreign language.

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I used to direct melodramas in the park to raise money and food for the food shelf. Every Friday in July. We would go to Gooseberry Park on a Wednesday to do it there, to keep sharp and because the naturalist was a close friend. One year a in attendance was a group of deaf kids from a summer program the state ran at Tettagouche. They had a very good signer who was going to stand by the set, which was small and right on top of the audience because we had about 130 people in the shelter. But there was a Mexican group who had little English. It turned out the signer was fluent in Mexican, so he was signing and translating. He was made the play funnier. He would get confused on what he was doing to which group. The Mexican kids would giggle and giggle. Our villain and hero were both experienced actors. So they would both or either stop and walk over to the signer and tell him they would let him catch up. The hero involved one of the Mexican kids in the play. The villain would put his arm around the signer and try to sell him the campground shelter. Pretty soon we were doing a whole other play for awhile. The guy, must have been about 23 or so, was a special young man. He was exhausted at the end of the 40 minute play. that was the best moment of theater we had ever done.

    Liked by 5 people

  7. I have the “Omie finger” which is the angry waggle of a pointer finger coupled with the words “No sir!” In a German accent. My maternal grandmother (Omie) did this a lot when arguing or reprimanding.

    We left Minnesota home early today due to a snow storm that will hit tonight.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I do a certain amount of waving my arms about while I talk – especially if I am presenting to a large group. If I couldn’t wave my arms, I think I would have a difficult time fully expressing myself. (See MIG’s note above – I would say this goes against my ancestral Norse roots, but being both daughter and granddaughter of choir directors, I come by this arm-waving quite honestly, taciturn Scandinavian or no.)

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Evening all. Gestures, colors, words — I don’t care of any of these things to be co-opted. I would have been really po-ed if I’d been born into earlier Chinese culture where yellow or purple was the emperor’s color only.

    So if I’m going to trademark a gesture for myself, this is it. Take the index finger of either hand, point it toward your forehead and then move it in a circular fashion.


  10. i read the article about how you cant one a gesture but you can and it seems that if you are putting it on a t shirt of something you can trademark it or something along those lines.
    i am owner of a couple of patents and i have a few more cooking but its a chicken and the egg routine. if you patent them and dont plug them in at once its a waste of time and energy. it occured to me everyone was amazed with davinccis numerous ideas on the different areas of life his brain messed around in. i love that tesla iss letting everyone have access to their patents for electic cars for the good of the world. its a wonderful gesture and i think it will do amazing things in moving to ward electric cars. now if only the people in power witld catch the spirit and not try to figure out how to make the electricity the thing they will glom onto to make billions with the government regulations being set up.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I suppose you could say my distinct gesture was my feet going around in circles. However yesterday I sold my bike, helmet, and tire pump for a farthing and tuppence.


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