Hong Kong Candy Ad Unintentionally Gives Us All a Shakespearean style “Middle Finger”

Something tells me that “biting your thumb” has a different meaning in Hong Kong culture than the west.

Throughout the MTR system, you’ll see this advertisement for Arnott’s Tim Tam candy bars, both in Chocolate and Cappuccino flavor.  The ad is eye catching and pleasant enough to the eye, with lovely models and happy faces while trying out the Tim Tam bars.  I have to admit, it put me right in the mood for chocolate.

However, the one thing that stood out the most, for me, in the ad was the model at the bottom biting her thumb.  Naturally, I’d imagine she (and the director of the ad campaign) were trying to signal how finger licking good these chocolate bars might be.  But I think they might have missed that “biting one’s thumb” also has a much different connotation.

img_3293

Biting one’s thumb is considered an old British and Sicilian gesture to insult someone, much in the same way one would use the middle finger.  Essentially, it’s a gesture to say “fuck you” to someone.

bite-my-thumb-at-thee-romeo-and-julietJaime Kennedy in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet

On one online dictionary, I found this definition:

bite (one’s) thumb at
An archaic insult, often accompanied by the gesture of biting one’s thumb at the person being insulted. How dare you say that to me? I bite my thumb at you, sir!

http://idioms.thefreedictionary.com/bite+my+thumb+at

Some might remember the use of “biting one’s thumb” in this scene from Superman III.

Screenshot 2017-01-03 12.59.50.pnghttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQuThW5c4DQ

Superman turns bad and straightens the leaning Tower of Pisa.  An Italian souvenir salesman, realizing his miniature leaning towers are no longer sellable, bites his thumb at Superman while yelling some Italian expletives.

Of course, the most famous instance of “biting one’s thumb” is in Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet.  Where Sampson, one of the Montegues bites his thumb to insult the Capulets.

shakespeare-i-bite-my-thumb-at-thee

Here is an excerpt from the thumb biting scene and do keep in mind that this gesture ends up causing a sword fight in the streets.

SAMPSON
Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them;
which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.

Enter ABRAHAM and BALTHASAR

ABRAHAM
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

SAMPSON
I do bite my thumb, sir.

ABRAHAM
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?

SAMPSON
[Aside to GREGORY] Is the law of our side, if I say
ay?

GREGORY
No.

SAMPSON
No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I
bite my thumb, sir.

GREGORY
Do you quarrel, sir?

ABRAHAM
Quarrel sir! no, sir.

SAMPSON
If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.

ABRAHAM
No better.

SAMPSON
Well, sir.

GREGORY
Say ‘better:’ here comes one of my master’s kinsmen.

SAMPSON
Yes, better, sir.

ABRAHAM
You lie.

SAMPSON
Draw, if you be men. Gregory, remember thy swashing blow.

They fight

So when advertising candy bars, be careful of what gestures you use.  Otherwise, you might just run a fowl of guys like this…

bite-your-thumb-at-me

 

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