Licking fingers when shuffling papers

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Cracker Jack, Feb 24, 2008.

  1. Cracker Jack Senior Member

    This has nothing to do with sycophants. I often see people in reel and real life licking their thumbs or forefingers when they flick pages, bills (ewwww) or even envelope adhesives. Personally, I have nothing against them, save for the health implications.

    I am against it for the following reasons: it is unhygienic and serves as portal of entry for bacteria and parasites; saliva when introduced to exterior environment leaves a foul smell; I was brought up in such a way that my parents told me that it is unhygienic to lick or ingest improperly cooked food, let alone paper or inedible materials.

    This may be a cultural thing because this is often seen in movies and is acceptable in some cultures. I would like to know if it is a practice in your culture and how people react from the health perspective.

    Thanks a lot.
  2. vihuelaanciana

    vihuelaanciana Member

    USA - English
    I remember my math teacher a couple of years back used to do that, when she was separating papers. To get a better hold on them, I suppose?

    It didn't sit very well with me, transmitting your saliva to your students. However, it is very common here, and I've never heard of anyone reacting to it, at least vocally.
  3. mirx Banned


    Not everything is coherent, less something that is so well rooted in one's culture. I am not American but I can very well imagine this practice being common.

    It is somehow common still in México, especially among older generations. I remember very well my 1st grade teacher from elementary shcool telling us to never ever to it, as it was bad manners. However, 10 years down the road a teacher in highschool did it all the time.

    I don't think it has to do with the culture of a nation but with one's surroundings and environment, more of a family background and something along those lines.

  4. Trisia

    Trisia Senior Member

    Yeah, I think they're called rubber fingers or finger pads (not too sure).

    In Romania, you can still see people licking their fingers when counting bills or turning pages of a book (it's funny when it happens in the subway), but (almost?) everyone who works with documents and the general public (people at the post office, bank tellers, accountants, etc.) use a sponge damper (formerly used only for stamps).

    This is obviously an improvement over licking your fingers, and since our money is plastic water can't hurt the banknotes, but I feel pity for all those official documents that get mouldy in time.
  5. DearPrudence

    DearPrudence Dépêche Mod (AL mod)

    French (lower Normandy)
    I remember seeing sponge dampers too (in a supermarket ora the post office I think) and I found it funny, but usual.
    But I had never seen rubber fingers, only in an American series, and again, it had surprised me because I don't think we have that in France.

    As for licking your fingers to turn pages or hand out sheets of paper, I would say it is very common (though as a child I had never quite understood while people did that, except to look pedantic :D). Maybe I'm wrong but I think I've only seen "older" (?) people do that, not people in their 30s or 40s...
  6. sokol

    sokol Senior Member

    Vienna, Austria; raised in Upper Austria
    Austrian (as opposed to Australian)
    Ever seen the film of Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose?

    It is a crime story where the licking of the finger to turn the page is the solution to the crime.
    As the story is set in the Middle Ages I suppose that in Europe finger licking for turning of pages once was widespread and common.

    It is not very common nowadays, you see it rarely anywhere in public, at least here in Austria, and I am sure that most people here would not appreciate bank notes being touched with licked fingers when counted.
    Some, however, still do that.
  7. palomnik Senior Member

    In the USA they market a product called "Fingertip Moistener." It is a small canister filled with a wax-like, non-toxic, stainless, greaseless, odorless material that you rub your index finger and thumb on before working with papers. In fact, I have a canister on my desk right now. It's quite effective - better than licking your fingers, in fact, to say nothing of eliminating the germ issue.

    Obviously if there is a market for a product like this, there must be a sizable contingent of the population that prefers not to lick their fingers when counting papers. As far as I know, there doesn't seem to be a cultural trend either way, at least not in the States, though.
  8. ariosto byron Senior Member

    Seville (Spain)
    Spain - Spanish
    Here in Spain it is really common to see people doing that. Even I have found myself doing once in a while. And, well, I don't think it is related to age since I see teenagers doing it all the time (i'm a teacher). Maybe you just do what your parents used to do at home.

    But I agree that it is a highly unhygienic thing.
  9. Encolpius

    Encolpius Senior Member

    How about French kissing? Do you find it unhygienic, too. :)
  10. Barque Senior Member

    He can choose whom he wants to engage in French-kissing with, unlike the situation he's describing.:)

    The practice is common here too and so are sponge dampers.
  11. velisarius

    velisarius Senior Member

    British English (Sussex)
    I hate people carelessly thumbing through my books, and I can't stand it when they do the thumb-licking routine on them. Even my husband. I think it's just a habit, and completely unnecessary unless the pages are stuck together - and in that case a wet thumb is probably not going to do the trick.

    I often buy second-hand books and I used to borrow from libraries, so it isn't a question of hygiene. I like to see books treated with the respect they deserve;).
  12. Awwal12

    Awwal12 Senior Member

    Moscow, the RF
    Spitting on the fingers in such circumstances can be occasionally (albeit very rarily, in my opinion) seen. As for licking, I can imagine that only in the context of envelopes and post stamps (not as if I've seen it a lot). Thanks God, recently introduced post stamps come already sticky and don't require moisturing anymore. :)
  13. Nawaq Senior Member

    français (France)
    i can't talk for the whole of France, but i'd still say it's pretty common to do it here - no one is going to look at you funny or with raised eyebrows or disgusted faces. my mother often do it with the magazines in any given waiting room.
  14. irinet

    irinet Senior Member

    Nowadays, it's less and less licking and more browsing, I suppose.
    But when I was younger and used to send letters to dearest friends, I did lick stamps.

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