Huh. That’s odd.

Just now I had one of those moment when I realized that I do something completely odd. Usually when I notice this, I can do a little research and figure out which culture donated this oddity to me, but not this time.

When I indicate numbers with my fingers, I keep my palm towards the person I am signalling. An upraised index finger indicates “1”.  Index and middle finger raised is “2”. “3”, however, is index finger down, and held under the thumb, with middle, ring, and little finger raised. “4” is all fingers up. Thumb joining is “5”.

While the “1”, “2”, “4”, and “5” are all from the British/American style of indicating numbers, the “3” isn’t — and doesn’t really seem to be from any culture that I grew up in.

Huh. How odd.


Friendly Competition

25 thoughts on “Huh. That’s odd.”

      1. Germans start counting with their thumb and add fingers ending with the pinkie for 5.

  1. That “three” is how basketball refs indicate someone with a three in their number when signaling a foul or that someone hit a three-point shot.

    It’s done that way to be completely distinct from “2” and so that it can’t be misread by the scoring table.

  2. I bet it’s from the military.
    It stands out easier when you’re holding your hand over your head and someone is looking at it from a distance. Doing it the other way, your pinky doesn’t always tuck in on a lot of people.

  3. That’s how I do it with my left hand. I broke the growth plate in my thumb when I was in 6th grade, and it is just slightly too short to comfortably hold the pinky down and show 3 the same way as 2.

  4. I had a peewee and midget football coach, a few bit of years ago, who signaled the same way to let us know it was third down. Last name was Holzer but he was all Texan as far as I know.

  5. I have to agree with Mr. Van Stry and i even tested it myself and i do it in the same manner and military is the only cultural connection we share in that manner that i am aware of

    1. As do I, but I chalk it up to studying American Sign Language (ASL) in my youth, in which the sign for the number ‘3’ is thumb, index, and middle fingers.

      Index, middle, and ring fingers is ‘6’; middle, ring, and pinky fingers is ‘9’.

      Those variations allow counting to 10 (and beyond — pretty much any number, really) on one hand.

  6. Despite being in the boy scouts in my yute, I do it your way and always have. It just makes sense.

  7. Wait… YOU have a quirk? Who woulda thunk THAT??

    Did not see that coming… much…
    I often do the same, just with palm towards me.

  8. I count one with thumb, two with thumb and index, three with thumb, index and middle, four with thumb bent, five with all digits. All are palm outward.

    I believe it came from my German-Texan family members.

  9. Maybe you learned it from someone older with limited finger motion due to age or wearing gloves.

    If my pinky is down the 2nd and 3rd fingers don’t fully extend anymore and my ring finger is only about half way up, so it looks more like 2 and a half.

    If my index finger is down the other 3 fingers extend just fine, and if I start with pinky up first it is fine.

  10. I’m a weird one. For some reason, I go on either hand a. Pointer, b. Index, c. Ring, d. Pinkie, e. Thumb. To count.

  11. Never thought about it till now. I’m weird yet a different way:

    1 is index
    2 adds the middle finger
    3 adds the pinky
    4 adds the ring finger
    5 adds the thumb

    I think it’s because the thumb naturally drops over the ring finger after “2”, and the pinky rises more easily than the ring finger, and the pinky is harder to hold down with the thumb than the ring, being so far away. And arthritis.

  12. I do the same thing for 3. Pinky/ring/middle with the index held down by the thumb–sort of a sideways OK. Didn’t used to, it’s a fairly recent thing. Arthritis in my thumbs seems to be what drives it.

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