There is language of abuse communicated through motions of the hand and/or fingers. The V sign has a long tradition in English culture. With the palm towards the communicant, it has overtones of VICTORY or COOLING OUT. Churchill - Bob Dylan.

Reversed it is a gesture of contempt - supposedly dating back to the battle of Agincourt where English Longbow Men demonstrated to their enemies that they still possessed those fingers with which they pulled their bows (mutilated on capture). The image of a V sign of contempt (football crowds, road rage - usually combined with taut jaw and vigorous movements of the arm) appears as something perfectly harmless in other visual cultures.

 

TOP Mechanics and Handicraft, February 1939, 5 x 14cms.

BOTTOM from Martin Baker, Silent Drill By Signals 12 x 18cms undated c1928.