The Truth About Scalia’s Hand Gesture
I decided to take the scholarly route to look into Scalia’s hand gesture, as reported by the Boston Herald. Turns out, it really isn’t that bad. There are several interpretations offered, none of them considered on par with giving someone the finger. None of them are described as obscene.
This gesture, often called the "chin flick," is widely used among Italians and persons of Italian ancestry. It is a gesture of contempt, somewhat less rude than giving a person "the finger." When used in the United States, it usually means "Bug off, I’ve had enough of you." Not a polite gesture, but not a particularly hostile one, either.
"The Chin Flick gesture, in which the backs of the fingers are swept upwards and forwards against the underside of the chin, is an insulting action in both France and northern Italy. There it means ‘Get lost-you are annoying me.’ In southern Italy it also has a negative meaning, but the message it carries is no longer insulting. It now says simply ‘There is nothing’ or ‘No’ or ‘I cannot’ or ‘I don’t want any’. This switch takes place between Rome and Naples and gives rise to the intriguing possibility that the difference is due to a surviving influence of ancient Greece.