Imagine offense

My cousin and her husband have expanded their sign business, Imagine Graphics. They opened a new store in Eugene, Oregon featuring giant murals of a blue-green butterfly, an orange gerber daisy, an OK hand sign and a golden sun. The Register-Guard story included a photo of the OK sign made by their little boy. My cousin e-mails:

Unfortunately someone called today to tell us that the image in the photo, which I love (Benjamin’s hand making the OK sign), is apparently an offensive gesture to Muslims, so we are probably going to have to reprint with a different hand image.

In some Arab cultures, the OK sign signifies the evil eye. In Latin America, it may be considered an obscene gesture. Still, if Americans can learn what’s offensive in other cultures, can’t people from other cultures learn what’s not offensive here?

About Joanne


  1. Apparently they cannot, you racist–or something.

  2. To the Muslims: Boo Hoo. We’ve been using the gesture as a postive one for over 50 years.

    Get over yourselves.

  3. I’ve got a gesture they can use.

  4. re: “can’t people from other cultures learn what’s not offensive here?”

    They can’t learn what’s not offensive here unless we, as Americans, are willing to take a stand for our own American culture. Please tell your cousin to stop being such a cultural wimp!

    This is not really the fault of the Muslims. It’s the fault of the wimpy PC Americans who abandon our culture when someone from the other side of the world MIGHT be offended.

  5. Alex Bensky says:

    Well, a baseball pitcher throws what’s called a circle change-up by making the “OK” sign as part of his grip. I guess we’ll have to change that, too.

  6. When my mother was PTA president during my elementary school years, they held cultural events designed to bring the parents together. There were a significant group of Japanese and Korean parents who held an event featuring traditional dress and dishes. My mother made the mistake of writing the name tags in red ink, which means “death” in several East Asian cultures. The women were too timid and embarrassed to say anything, but their shocked facial expressions gave it away. My mother quickly rewrote the name tags. Was she compromising American culture and “giving in” to Asian values? Or just making people feel comfortable who had come there to work and celebrate with her?

    If we are going to welcome people into our communities with goodwill, and expect mutual cooperation, it doesn’t hurt to have cultural sensitivity. Especially since our stated mission around the world is to promote democracy and openness. I think there is a way to be welcoming without compromising our “American” values. We don’t all have to start wearing headscarves or even avoid writing our own names in red ink, but if we can avoid unnecessarily upsetting the people that we’re trying to have as our neighbors and partners, great.

    As an American who has traveled quite a bit abroad, I find many (if not the majority of) people speak my language fluently and know my customs and expectations for social situations. Those from other countries don’t have the same luxury when they come to the United States. There are really a minority of countries that say they don’t “get” or don’t care what Americans do and think, and I think the reason they don’t accommodate us is that they are not democracies and don’t have the ideal, as we do, of honoring diverse viewpoints and letting people of different ethnic backgrounds and religions live together peacefully. We’re supposed to be the role model for that ideal, which we are trying to spread around the world with diplomacy and, occasionally, with war.

  7. Why in the world will they not stand by their sign? They didn’t intend offense, and honestly, if we’re going to avoid giving offense to anyone based on their own perception, then how can we communicate anything?

    How disheartening.

  8. carpeicthus says:

    I think it would be awesome if when I went to another country there were signs with people flipping the bird everywhere.

    Is it really offsensive to *muslims*? This sort of thing is usually regional, not religious. Maybe it’s offensive to people from some parts of the Middle East, perhaps? I doubt an American Black Muslim cares very much. Still, it’s fun to see you conflate the two, and also a given that this sort of entry draws the comments.