Can you identify this object?
December 19, 2009 8:57 AM   Subscribe

I found this object in a thrift shop. It is solid wood, 12 inches tall, and weighs 1.5 pounds. front | back

A google search for "carved wood fist" produced similar items, many reminiscent of the "raised fist" imagery used for a multitude of causes. However, nothing that I found had the thumb protruding through the pointer and middle fingers. Does anyone recognize this object?
posted by shannonm to Grab Bag (11 answers total)
I think I've got it! It's obviously a hand throwing the fig sign, so that led me to Wikipedia, which states:

In ancient Greece, this gesture was a fertility and good luck charm designed to ward off evil. This usage has survived in Portugal and Brazil, where carved images of hands in this gesture are used in good luck talismans.

So there you go, I think. Good luck!
posted by Faint of Butt at 8:59 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

Well.... in the country where I come from, I have seen some people do it in the middle of a conversation, as a gesture that replaced a word or an expression, and the meaning intended was the word "F***", and in "To F***". Memail me if you want to know more. (Theses people were somehow very liberated in terms of taboos etc, and i was a teenager when I witnessed it, so maybe it isnt' used anymore, or was specific to this group of people.. ?)
posted by Jireel at 9:03 AM on December 19, 2009

Yes, I should have mentioned that in other cultures, the same gesture is obscene. Hide the carving when your Greek friends come by.
posted by Faint of Butt at 9:07 AM on December 19, 2009

In certain East Asian cultures that gesture is how you show your displeasure at someone. It's not exactly like flipping the "bird" and saying FU. It's more like, "F that guy", and they do that gesture with a twist of the wrist for emphasis. I have seen my mother do this on numerous occasions. The origin, perhaps not uniquely Asian, may have come from using the thumb in fist as a form of physical violence.
posted by cazoo at 9:09 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

By george, I think you've got it, Faint of Butt. I've never heard of or seen the "fig sign", but that is clearly what is represented in this carving. Thank you for the two-minute response! And thanks also to Jireel for the more colorful uses as well!
posted by shannonm at 9:09 AM on December 19, 2009

And cazoo!
posted by shannonm at 9:16 AM on December 19, 2009

Its called a 'figa' and in Brazil it is common enough a cultural reference, it is used in advertising.
posted by vacapinta at 9:43 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

(portuguese here)

It's a Figa! Not only you carry it with you (some of my family members carry it in their wallets or as a pendant in their necklaces) but you should do it with your own hand inside your pocket when you feel someone is giving you the evil eye or out in the open with both hands when the rival football team is about to kick a penalty against your team. Actually, that last one might just be my thing.
posted by lucia__is__dada at 9:44 AM on December 19, 2009 [1 favorite]

I first thought of the children's game "I've Got Your Nose!"
posted by Andy's Gross Wart at 9:53 AM on December 19, 2009 [2 favorites]

One of my friends went to Brazil earlier this year and brought back a miniature version of this and gave it to me. It's about 3 inches tall, but otherwise looks almost exactly the same as yours. I was told that it's kinda like a good-luck charm.
posted by dogwalker at 5:47 PM on December 19, 2009

If you wiggle it back and forth a bit, it's American Sign Language for "toilet."
posted by Joleta at 7:52 PM on December 20, 2009

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