"A fig for a kiss" means...?

Discussion in 'English Only' started by Reyeh, Nov 21, 2007.

  1. Reyeh New Member

    Japan, Japanese
    Hi, I am searching for the meaning of the phrase "a fig for --", if this is included in sentence like below:
    "Then a fig for the new fashioned waltzes
    Imported from Spain and from France
    And a fig for the thing called the polka
    Our own Irish jig we will dance."

    ---Is it just a shortened form of "a figure", or fig as "a scrap"?

    Also, an Irish band "Provision" has released an album called "A fig for a kiss", and I just wondered the same meaning as that in question. ---Please help!
     
  2. panjandrum

    panjandrum Occasional Moderator

    Belfast, Ireland
    English-Ireland (top end)
    Hello Reyeh, and welcome to WordReference :)

    Based on information in the OED ...
    A fig's end, or a fig in this context is something small, valueless, not worth noticing.
    It relates to dried figs, although how it came to be used in this more general sense I can't discover.
    A fig for the new fashioned waltzes - I wouldn't give a fig for the new fashioned waltzes - I don't think they are worth anything.

    I don't know the significance of fig in "A fig for a kiss".
     
  3. Reyeh New Member

    Japan, Japanese
    Thank you panjadrum, for such a speedy reply!

    What I am struggling with is, as you can see, a materials regarding Irish music, and I feel being very much encouraged to have the first reply from an Irish member.
     
  4. GreenWhiteBlue

    GreenWhiteBlue Senior Member

    The City of New York
    USA - English
    There is a gesture which is a sign of disrespect (which can even have an obscene meaning in Continental Europe) called the "fig", and it consists of making a fist with the thumb placed between the index finger and the middle finger. Today it is much more common to see this gesture used by Italians or Spaniards (who, by the way, also call this gesture a "fig", although they call it that in Italian or Spanish, of course!) than by English speakers. Nevertheless, the gesture was at one time common enough among the English, especially if they had been to the Continent as soldiers. You see it being used in Shakespeare's play King Henry V. King Henry, in disguise, is speaking to the argumentative Pistol about Fluellen, with whom Pistol has had a disagreement, and the following bit of dialogue is found:

    Pistol : Art thou his friend?
    King Henry: And his kinsman too.
    Pistol: The figo for thee then!

    And we can imagine Pistol making the rude gesture as he says this, much as someone today might "flip the bird" at another person.

    Although the gesture has been largely forgotten in the English-speaking world, you see it recalled in the expression "I don't give a fig" or "I don't care a fig", which is now considered more polite than ""I don't give a [OBSCENITY OF CHOICE]". In the sentence you give, the meaning is close to that of Pistol's use in the dialogue above: we will show our contempt for the new, foreign waltzes and the polka by making a rude hand gesture at them, and we shall do our traditional dances instead.
     
  5. zukermann Member

    Russia
    Russia; Russian
    [quote=GreenWhiteBlue;4002709]There is a gesture which is a sign of disrespect (which can even have an obscene meaning in Continental Europe) called the "fig", and it consists of making a fist with the thumb placed between the index finger and the middle finger. Today it is much more common to see this gesture used by Italians or Spaniards (who, by the way, also call this gesture a "fig", although they call it that in Italian or Spanish, of course!) than by English speakers.
    We Russians have this gesture too:) But i wouldn't say it's in the least obscene - more of a joke, really. And we call it a fig, too.
     
  6. se16teddy

    se16teddy Senior Member

    London but from Yorkshire
    English - England
    The Oxford English Dictionary lists fig meaning 'something worthless' with fig the fruit (fig, noun 1), and suggests it is a quite different word from fig (noun 2) meaning a contemptuous gesture which consisted in thrusting the thumb between two of the closed fingers or into the mouth (the Figge of Spayne).
     

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