While the thumb remains a recognized symbol of hitchhiking well outside the United States, there are some places where hitchhikers would be advised to use an alternative gesture. In Iraq a "thumbs up" means, traditionally, "Up yours!," and the gesture can be similarly insulting in parts of West Africa, Russia, Australia, Iran, Greece and Sardinia, according to Roger E. Axtell's book "Gestures: The Do's and Taboos of Body Language Around the World." For Sardinian and Greek roadsides, hitchhiking advocates suggest "the loosely waved, flat hand gesture." The same motion is suggested for hitchhikers in China, and in Morocco, the hitchhiking Wiki writes, "Hitchhiking is done by waving one's index finger, but the thumb will often be understood as well."
Got a question about today's news? email@example.com.
Explainer thanks Ben Zimmer of the Visual Thesaurus and Vocabulary.com.