Is this a real insult?
January 19, 2011 4:25 PM   Subscribe

Is the gesture that Kramer makes upon leaving Paisano's an actual known rude gesture?

In the episode of Seinfeld titled "The Calzone", the 20th episode of the seventh season, there is a scene, viewable here, in which Kramer gets into an argument with the proprietor of a pizza shop over whether or not he can pay for calzones with change. He ends up leaving without the food, but before exiting he makes a strange non-verbal gesture that consists of kicking the counter top with the top of his foot, twice. Is this a real thing? I.e., is this a known rude gesture, or is it just something plausible-looking that Michael Richards made up? Maybe it's unique to NYC?
posted by Ipsifendus to Society & Culture (8 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I'm fairly sure that's just something Michael Richards made up. Sure... it's totally disrespectful to put your foot on a food counter. But I don't think it's an actual "thing". I've certainly never seen it in NYC.
posted by kimdog at 4:30 PM on January 19, 2011

A known rude gesture? Unique to NYC? No, no. That's just a piece of Kramer "business" that adds to the quirkiness of the character.
posted by thinkpiece at 4:31 PM on January 19, 2011

Your average person would have a hard time doing that casually on a standard height counter. Michael Richards is tall enough and physical enough to make it look like a thing. Go ahead and try it. It's not a thing, though many cultures share a taboo about the shoes/feet, especially soles.
posted by 2bucksplus at 4:42 PM on January 19, 2011

I will also say it's just something Richards made up. However, as a for example, in the first Morimoto-Flay battle on Iron Chef, Flay famously stood atop his cutting board in celebration at the end of the battle. Morimoto took great offense to this -- in that culture, it is apparently extremely low class to treat one's cooking tools in this manner.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 4:52 PM on January 19, 2011

This reminds me of the time that Iraqi journalist threw his shoe at George Bush during a press conference, and people were like, "it is a sign of profound disrespect in their culture to throw your shoe at someone"...
posted by caek at 5:36 PM on January 19, 2011 [3 favorites]

It's rude, but not an official Rude Gesture a la flinging someone a middle finger, or two fingers, or the "va fan'cul'" gesture or what have you.

It's rude because he's kicking a countertop. In a restaurant. That's fucking rude; it doesn't have to be a formal gesture.
posted by Sidhedevil at 5:57 PM on January 19, 2011

I don't know this from personal experience, only from reading, but in many cultures (especially in the Arab world), it's considered an insult to show the bottom of one's foot to another, because the bottom of the foot is considered unclean. I always assumed that's what was behind Kramer's gesture in that episode.
posted by HotToddy at 6:34 PM on January 19, 2011

You know, I always assumed the kicking thing was kind of a way of saying he's so angry and ashamed of the way he was treated that he's shaking the dust of the place off his feet.
posted by carlh at 6:50 PM on January 20, 2011

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