Friday, May 23, 2008

death to gladiators

The thumbs-up gesture has its roots in ancient Rome, where gladiators would literally live or die by it. Pollice verso is the Latin term for the gesture, meaning "with a turned thumb."

"It was a hand gesture that was used by the crowd to say if the gladiator should live or die after a fight," explains Lisa Slattery Rashotte, a sociologist at the University of North Carolina, Charlotte.

The last thing a sweaty sportsman wanted was a thumbs-up. While in modern times it has a positive meaning, back then it meant "get him out of here," or death, while a concealed thumb (considered thumbs-down) meant the gladiator lived.