SNP MP Peter Grant accuses Boris Johnson of walking out of the chamber while his party's Westminster leader Ian Blackford was still speaking.

In a tweet, he claims it is the "third or fourth time in a row" that Mr Johnson has left in such a way, adding: "This is deliberate. This is 2 fingers to Scotland."

(This was on the BBC's live feed.)

Two fingers as one sign is a sign of victory (as far as I know), so I guess that rather means "middle finger" shown twice. But why two then, when the statement says there were three or four incidents? I'm confused... Can someone clarify what the [finger] cultural reference is in that speech of Grant?

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    It was disrespectful not to be paying attention, as if the scots have nothing relevant to say. "two fingers" is a polite tabloid way of saying "F U, Jimmy" (or Ian, as the case may be).
    – mckenzm
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 0:25

4 Answers 4


In the UK, two fingers is an insult much like the middle finger in the USA. Done in a palm-out orientation it is the victory sign, as done by Winston Churchill. The other way around, palm inwards (knuckles out) it is just like the middle finger.

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    Yeah "In a survey of gestures in Europe in the 1970s, Desmond Morris and his team found that this gesture was almost exclusively found in the British Isles. It is also used in Australia and New Zealand. " And based on that page apparently Churchill himself was confused about the meaning of the palm-facing-inwards sign, although some opinions were that he was doing it deliberately at times while he knew his meaning but pretended he didn't... Fascinating... Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 20:05
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    "If this is true, Churchill cheekily exploited the gesture to signal to the Allies that the British were against the Germans, while also garnering support at home. The gesture could simultaneously mean ‘Victory over the Germans’ and ‘Stick it up the Germans’. The ambiguity allowed Churchill to insult the enemy without the enemy even being aware of it." Commented Oct 28, 2019 at 20:11
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    Palm inwards, it's a taunt to the enemy. Myth, legend or truth has it that the French at Agincourt had promised to cut off the bow fingers (that hold the bowstring) of every English archer when they were victorious. They lost, the two finger salute in modern Britain is rooted in that story - whether true or not. It not only signifies 'up yours' but that the person/people on the receiving end are going to lose badly if they come into conflict. (to put it nicely).
    – Charemer
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 9:04
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    In my neck of the woods, it's sometimes referred to as "flicking the Vs [at someone/something]"
    – user23589
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 9:45
  • 3
    I've wondered from time to time if the V sign is linked to the cuckold's horns
    – Spagirl
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 10:44

In the UK, Australia and New Zealand, the two fingers (sometimes also two-fingered salute) is a sign whose meaning can approximately equated to the middle finger which is used in North America, Europe and probably other places. Both are a hand gesture with the palm facing inwards and fingers streched out: index and middle finger in the case of two fingers. It can be described as the opposite of the peace sign (in worldwide use) which has the same finger arrangement but the palm points outwards.

The origin of this sign remain obscure but it has been attested back in 1901 when workers were filmed outside Parkgate Iron and Steel Co. in Rotherham and one was obviously unhappy (Screenshot below).

Two fingers flashed outside Rotherham’s Parkgate Iron and Steel Co

This source points to a likely working class origin. Churchill, prime minister during World War II and upper-class, intended to introduce a V for victory hand signal. Photographs exist of him doing both what would become the peace (or victory) sign and its opposite, the two fingers. The film Darkest Hour contains a scene in which a typist of lower class origin has to alert the prime minister that his gesture with palm inwards has an established meaning and the short scene ends with confirmation that the palm facing outwards is fine. To the best of my knowledge, it is not attested whether Churchill was indeed unaware of this sign due to his upper class origins or whether he deliberately used it for its double-entendre—a double-entendre that would have been completely lost across the Channel anyway.

For a more contemporary account of the offensive nature of the two fingers, see the image below of British cyclish Mark Cavendish where he celebrated his victory by insulting his critics according to Reuters UK.

British cyclist Cavendish using the two fingers

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    It is rumoured [1] that this originates in the middle ages when the French supposedly proclaimed that English longbowmen's bow fingers would be cut off; then at Agincourt (1415) the victorious bowmen gestured with two fingers at the French to show they still had their fingers; however, there does not appear to be much historical evidence [2, 3], to support this legend.
    – MT0
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 9:59
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    @MT0 Precisely why I chose not to include the rumours ;)
    – Jan
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 10:00
  • 1
    Typical Rotherham. Hasn't changed much, I see. Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 10:29
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    Citation needed about middle finger being used "worldwide" Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 16:34
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    Cavendish appears to be using an advanced form in which the V is combined, rather satisfyingly, with the Bras d’Honneur.
    – jez
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 21:01

🖔 U+1F594

although todays meaning is more or less "fuck off you twat."

But it mostly lost that appeal:

If asked, most people would gloss the meaning as ‘Fuck you’ or something similar, and it was certainly a very potent offensive gesture until recent years when it seems to be losing its ability to offend.
–– Jacqueline Simpson & Steve Roud: "A Dictionary of English Folklore", Oxford University Press: Oxford, New York, 2000, V-sign, p. 376. The quintessential British offensive gesture for most of the 20th century.


I am not sure if it is true but i heard it one time.

This salute dates back to the English Longbowman who fought the French during the Hundred Years War (1337 – 1453). The French hated the English archers who used the Longbow with such devastating effect. Any English archers who were caught by the French had their Index and middle fingers chopped off from their right hand- a terrible penalty for an archer. This led to the practice of the English archers, especially in siege situations, taunting their French enemy with their continued presence by raising their two fingers in the ‘Two-Fingered Salute’ meaning “You haven’t cut off my fingers !”

from this site

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    There is some debate [1, 2] as to whether there is any evidence to support this as there do not appear to be any sources where this is mentioned and, also, longbows are best fired with 3 fingers (instead of two).
    – MT0
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 10:02
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    @MT0 Bows are not "fired".
    – rghome
    Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 16:01
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    @rghome Why not? I see plenty of uses of "to fire" with relation to the longbow on apparently reputable sources Commented Oct 29, 2019 at 16:35
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    @Lightness Races with Monica the term "fire" comes from the need to apply a burning match to a musket or cannon. It doesn't apply to bows. Saying "fire" in an archery club will get you a polite rebuke!
    – rghome
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 8:26
  • 2
    @rghome We're not in an archery club. I know what "fire" means, and I'm telling you that its usage is not that strict in general. If you look it up you'll see plenty of usages worldwide. Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 11:33

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