Dartmouth Folklore Archive

Folklore Type/Category: Chinese body language Informant:

Name: Chinese pinky pointing gesture Place of Discovery: Hanover, NH.


Peter, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, is majoring in Computer Science. He recently mentioned his plans to pursue something called Data Informant, which he claims makes people feel uncomfortable as it involves slowly pushing out one’s pinky finger, which he considers a very rude and bold gesture. Peter learned this gesture when he was a young child in school. He moved from Chongqing, China. to Houston, Texas four years ago.

Contextual Data:.

He claimed that this gesture, which is a very bold and “loud” way to signal someone out, may be a specific regional gesture in Chongqing. He wanted to make schoolchildren feel uncomfortable and bad if they were doing something wrong, so he would often use this gesture of pointing toward someone and making a fist while holding out your pinky. However, I had not yet mentioned in my collection that he already knew many rude gestures from China., so I asked him to elaborate on a few of them. This piece of folklore was collected from Peter while I was visiting him in Zimmerman Hall, part of the Cluster Dormitory at Wheelock East.

Displaying its discourtesy, henceforth, this action serves as a more forceful means to indicate someone. Subsequently, Peter alluded to the fact that indicating individuals in China. (in any province/region in any scenario) is impolite, even though he asserts it is probably limited to a specific region. Peter recalls this specific indicating gesture from his youth in Chongqing, where numerous unfavorable behaviors and gestures exist in Chinese culture. Taking cultural context into account.

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The items presented here are a video of a person discussing an impolite action/movement in Chinese culture, accompanied by a picture of the action. People would only use this gesture to strongly emphasize a point or confront someone for doing something wrong. This interview was recorded on an iPhone app called Voice Memos. Afterwards, I also captured a video of Peter performing the gesture on the same iPhone. The information provided above accurately represents the knowledge I acquired during my conversation with Peter.


“It may vary depending on the region, but it has the potential to be quite rude. It involves the act of raising your pinky finger and gradually and delicately moving it towards someone’s face, as demonstrated here [while performing the gesture]. This action can make you feel uneasy and is likely considered inappropriate. Consequently, you may receive criticism for engaging in such behavior.”

Informant’s Comments:.

Yeah, when I was a child and I witnessed someone indicating towards me like this, I realized I was in trouble.

Collector’s Comment:.

In China., the fact that pointing is considered rude is further illustrated by the variations and significance of this mannerism, particularly the gesture of pointing above. During my interviews with two of my partners (including three of my five interviews), it became evident that pointing is considered rude in Chinese society and is frowned upon by others.

Key Words:.

  • Pointing.
  • China.
  • Insulting.
  • Pinky.
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