Created By: ArkadyDarell on August 15, 2012 Last Edited By: ArkadyDarell on September 12, 2012
Troped

Lying Finger Cross

A character crosses their fingers while making a vow, oath, etc., to show they're lying.

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Trope
There's a Title Crowner to hopefully get this thing titled and finished off; feel free to add to and/or vote on it.

Someone brought this up in Lost and Found, and I was amazed we didn't seem to have it already, so here it is. Though since I've Seen It a Million Times, I'm having a hard time thinking up specific examples to mention.
Sometimes when a character is forced to make a vow, oath, promise, gesture, etc. they don't actually mean, they will cross their index and middle fingers in a way hidden to the character they're talking to but visible to the audience, to show they're actually lying. Most often the person will have their crossed fingers held behind their back, but off to the side, under a table, or somewhere else hidden is also possible.

Truth in Television, of course, which is the reason why it works as a visual cue, often in the form of An Insert. There's a number of guesses out there as to why it became a common gesture for lying, but the general idea is that it somehow either protects you from the consequences of lying or absolves you from being held to your word to begin with.

It can also be used as an Out-of-Character Alert, both in-universe and Real Life, to signal to other people that a statement or gesture was made under coercion or otherwise insincerely.
Comic Books
  • In Reid Fleming, World's Toughest Milkman, Reid tells Mr. O'Clocke, "us bald guys gotta stick together". When Crabbe notices he has his fingers crossed behind his back and accuses him of lying, Reid admits that he's not actually bald. "I get my hair cut this way." Mr. O'Clocke finds that very flattering.
  • When Superman and Spider-Man had an intercompany Crossover, Supes asked Spidey to turn himself over to the police after their adventure since he was wanted at the time. Spidey shook on it but had his fingers crossed behind his back.

Film - Animation

Film - Live Action

Literature
  • The protagonist of Bavarian author Ludwig Thoma's Lausbubengeschichten does this with crossed fingers behind his back, after he played a prank on the village priest, who makes him swear an oath he didn't do it. He claims he learned this trick from his uncle, who's in the Bavarian parliament.

Live-Action TV
  • Lois and Clark: In the first season finale, Clark does this while telling Lois that when he said that he loved her (in the penultimate episode) he didn't mean it, he was lying to get her to not marry Lex.
  • Referred to in Burn Notice, when Larry, the corrupt spy that Michael is temporarily forced to work with, kills the guy they're supposed to be kidnapping.
    Michael: We had a deal!
    Larry: What can I say? I had my fingers crossed behind my back!
  • Home and Away:
    • One episode has Irene take Olivia with her to go on the run to prevent her evil grandmother from becoming her legal guardian. Barry catches up with Irene, tells her what she's doing is stupid, so they go back to her house where a meeting was meant to be taking place with the grandmother and a social worker. When they get back to the house, Irene comes up with a cover story that she went out shopping with Olivia and the car got a flat tyre. Olivia is asked if Irene's story is true and she nods. The viewer then sees her fingers are crossed behind her back.
    • Another episode has Leah apologise to Ryan after falsely accusing him of wrecking her wedding dress. Ryan says that he accepts Leah's apology, but then we see he has his fingers crossed behind his back.
  • Friends, the episode "The One Where No One Is Ready": Joey and Chandler are having a very long argument about who gets to sit on a chair.
    Chandler: Well, Joey, I wrote a little song today. It's called: Get Up.
    Joey: All right! You can have the chair.
    Chandler: Really!
    Joey: Oh my, would you look at that! (holds up crossed fingers)
  • Subverted in one episode of I Love Lucy. In it, Ricky forces Lucy to take a vow. Lucy, with one arm behind her back, begins saying the vow, but then Ricky pulls her arm out to reveal her crossed fingers, and separates them.

Western Animation
  • Played with on SpongeBob SquarePants. When SpongeBob and Patrick promise Mr. Krabs not to play on the fishing hooks, Patrick claims he had his fingers crossed. SpongeBob then points out that he has no fingers.
  • The Joker from The Batman does this in an episode when making a deal with his nano-tech clone--who does it as well. No points for guessing how the deal went.
  • An episode of Make Way For Noddy has Dinah Doll tell Gobbo that she knows he's lying because his fingers are crossed, and that goblins cross their fingers when they lie.
  • In The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Wedding, when Lisa and Marge talk through a video phone:
    Lisa: Mom, remember when I was little, we'd always planned my dream wedding and you always promised to... you know, well, keep Dad from ruining it?
    Marge: (crossing her fingers) Oh, don't worry, honey, I guarantee your father will behave.
    Lisa: Mom, it's a picture phone.
    Marge: (looking at her fingers) This? This? Oh, no, I've just got a touch of the rheumatiz.
  • In the Gravity Falls episode "Fight Fighters", Mabel makes a promise to Grunkle Stan and puts on a sweater with a hand doing the "Scout's honor" gesture on the front. When she turns her back to the fourth wall we see the back of her sweater has a hand with its fingers crossed.

Community Feedback Replies: 52
  • August 15, 2012
    Duncan
    In The Truman Show, Truman's wife doing this covertly in their wedding picture tips him off to The Masquerade.
  • August 15, 2012
    JonnyB
    In Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory, when Wonka gives the kids Everlasting Gobstoppers and makes them promise not to tell another living soul about them, one of the girls (I think it was Veruca) crosses her fingers behind her back.
  • August 15, 2012
    TonyG
    On Sponge Bob Square Pants, when SpongeBob and Patrick promise Mr. Krabs not to play on the fishing hooks, Patrick claims he had his fingers crossed. SpongeBob then points out that he has no fingers.
  • August 15, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^^ I checked, and yeah, it was Veruca.
  • August 26, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
  • August 26, 2012
    captainsandwich
    The term for this is "fingers crossed" as such i think it should be in the trope name how about "had my fingers crossed".
  • August 26, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ "Fingers crossed" usually refers to crossing your fingers for good luck, not lying, AFAIK.
  • August 26, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Often a specific example of An Insert.

    • Lois And Clark: In the first season finale, Clark does this while telling Lois that when he said the he loved her (in the penultimate episode) he didn't mean it, he was lying to get her to not marry Lex.
  • August 27, 2012
    Theharbo
    The Joker from The Batman does this in an episode when making a deal with his nano-tech clone - who does it aswell. No points for guessing how the deal went.
  • August 27, 2012
    CaveCat
  • August 27, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    @captainsandwich: Maybe "Lying Crossed Fingers"? There does need to be some way to differentiate from "Lucky Crossed Fingers".
  • August 27, 2012
    ThreeferFAQMinorityChick
    I like Lying Fingers, 'cause this isn't always done with crossed fingers, specifically, as in the following example. This was done in the movie, could someone who's seen the stage musical tell us if this is part of the show?

    Film
    • In the musical remake of The Producers, Franz Liebkind has Max and Leo take the Siegfried Oath, which involves raising one's forefinger and swearing to "Never never never dishoner ze spirit und ze memory of Adolph Elizabeth Hitler." Neither of them are particularly willing to do this, but they have to if they want him to allow them to produce a stage production of his play. They do this trope for their own and the audience's benefit by saying the words of the Oath so Liebkind can hear, but raising their middle fingers instead of their forefingers.
  • August 28, 2012
    Xtifr
    Comic Books:

    • In Reid Fleming Worlds Toughest Milkman, Reid tells Mr. O'Clocke, "us bald guys gotta stick together". When Crabbe notices he has his fingers crossed behind his back and accuses him of lying, Reid admits that he's not actually bald. "I get my hair cut this way." Mr. O'Clocke finds that very flattering.
  • August 28, 2012
    Frank75
    The protagonist of Bavarian author Ludwig Thoma's Lausbubengeschichten, after he played a prank on the village priest, who makes him swear an oath he didn't do it. (Crossed fingers behind his back.) He claims he learned this trick from his uncle, who's in the Bavarian parliament.
  • August 28, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^^^ I'm not sure what we should do with that example. It's notable, I think, that crossed fingers in and of itself is an instant cue that works on its own without any explanation needed due to its RL cultural status. So I'm not sure about expanding it to all gestures that indicate lying, just including yours as a variation, or what.

    There may be a "Falsehood Tells" supertrope implied, perhaps...
  • August 28, 2012
    Xtifr
    Yes, I think it makes more sense to limit this to crossed fingers. Other gestures or expressions that subtly (or not-so-subtly) indicate people are lying seems more like a supertrope.

    On the other hand, if there's a cultural equivalent in Japan or India or China, it might be worth including that. But it would have to be the same sort of thing: so iconic and well-known that it's instantly recognizable as a sign of a lie to members of that culture.
  • August 28, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ I think that might be an interesting expansion, yes. Though unfortunately I'm not very familiar with non-Western culture (not even an anime fan, really), so I'd have to solicit help there.

    Maybe after this trope is launched I might then see if a supertrope-slash-trope-index for tells in general that indicate someone's lying would be viable.
  • August 28, 2012
    Charmant
    It is implied the "Prince Charming" in Katy Perry's music video for Wide Awake is doing this. As there is no dialogue, it cannot be said for sure, but I'm fairly certain that's the impression she was trying to give, especially considering she punches him in the face for it afterwards.
  • August 28, 2012
    JonnyB
    Lying Fingers sounds odd and not very descriptive. How about Lying Finger Cross or Deceitful Finger Cross?
  • August 29, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    Lying Finger Cross might work. (I'd be tempted to use Cross My Fingers and Hope to Lie if it wasn't too long...)
  • August 29, 2012
    SinisterShenanigans
    Lying Finger Cross sounds better as a trope name than Lying Fingers. I'm surprised there aren't more examples here; it seems like a pretty common trope to me.
  • August 30, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^ I think part of the problem may be that it's so common and ordinary that it's hard to remember individual examples. At least, that's part of the problem I'm having coming up with examples. (I actually saw one recently, but I'm going to have to retrace my steps to find it.)

    As for names, I agree that Lying Finger Cross is an improvement, but it would be nice to have something a little less vanilla. Clarity is job one, but adding wit as well really helps a trope.
  • August 30, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ Yeah, that was my problem. I've seen it so many times, that, well...

    Anyone have a good page image, BTW? This strikes me as the sort of thing easy to illustrate with an image like the one on this page: [1] except I have no idea what images we're allowed to use in terms of fair use/copyright permissions/etc. when it comes to generic/stock stuff. Maybe if any of the existing examples is screencap-worthy...
  • August 30, 2012
    Xtifr
    Found it.

    Live Action TV:
    • Referred to in Burn Notice, when Larry, the corrupt spy that Michael is temporarily forced to work with, kills the guy they're supposed to be kidnapping.
      Michael: We had a deal!
      Larry: What can I say? I had my fingers crossed behind my back!
  • September 2, 2012
    Acebrock
    Never mind
  • September 2, 2012
    NateTheGreat
    Snopes has an example of a soldier who's not really pleased to be shaking hands with Hillary Clinton...

    http://www.snopes.com/photos/military/crossed.asp
  • September 2, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    ^ Did you intend that as an example, or an image suggestion? Or both?
  • September 2, 2012
    AP
    • When Superman and Spider Man had an intercompany Cross Over, Supes asked Spidey to turn himself over to the police after their adventure since he was wanted at the time. Spidey shook on it but had his fingers crossed behind his back.
  • September 3, 2012
    SteamGoth
    Arkady Darell: Personally, I like Cross My Fingers And Hope To Lie. It's a little corny, and yes, it's long, but you can tell what the trope is.
  • September 3, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^ It fails the concise part of Clear Concise Witty, and concise is currently supposed to trump witty, although there are rumors that the study of inbound links and page visits may lead that to change. Still, such an extreme lack of conciseness is probably not a good thing even if the rules do get changed--and I should emphasize that they haven't actually been changed.

    I confess that part of me really likes the suggestion anyway.
  • September 3, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    I agree that is too long to be a good name, but: "concise is currently supposed to trump witty"... no it's not. No part of that trumps any other part. That is in descending order of importance, but all three are important.

    (e.g. medium/medium/medium might be better than high/low/low... the word "trump" implies that, for instance, a tiny bit of clarity is more important than a lot of wittiness.)
  • September 3, 2012
    XFllo
    I think it happened on Friends, but I cannot remember which scene or episode that might be.

    EDIT:
    • Friends, episode "The One Where No One Is Ready": Joey and Chandler are having a very long argument about who gets to sit on a chair.
      Chandler: Well, Joey, I wrote a little song today. It's called: Get Up.
      Joey: All right! You can have the chair.
      Chandler: Really!
      Joey: Oh my, would you look at that! (holds up crossed fingers)
  • September 3, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^^ valid correction, thanks.
  • September 4, 2012
    triassicranger
    Live Action Television
    • An episode of Home And Away has Irene take Olivia with her to go on the run to prevent her evil grandmother from becoming her legal guardian. Barry catches up with Irene, tells her what she's doing is stupid, so they go back to her house where a meeting was meant to be taking place with the grandmother and a social worker. When they get back to the house, Irene comes up with a cover story that she went out shopping with Olivia and the car got a flat tyre. Olivia is asked if Irene's story is true and she nods. The viewer then sees her fingers are crossed behind her back.
    • Another Home And Away episode has Leah apologise to Ryan after falsely accusing him of wrecking her wedding dress. Ryan says that he accepts Leah's apology, but then we see he has his fingers crossed behind his back.

    Western Animation
    • An episode of Make Way For Noddy has Dinah Doll tell Gobbo that she knows he's lying because his fingers are crossed, and that goblins cross their fingers when they lie.
  • September 4, 2012
    Aquila89
    In The Simpsons episode "Lisa's Wedding, when Lisa and Marge talk through a video phone:
    Lisa: Lisa: Mom, remember when I was little, we'd always planned my dream wedding and you always promised to... you know, well, keep Dad from ruining it?
    Marge: (crossing her fingers) Oh, don't worry, honey, I guarantee your father will behave.
    Lisa: Mom, it's a picture phone.
    Marge: (looking at her fingers) This? This? Oh, no, I've just got a touch of the rheumatiz.
  • September 4, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    Well, I think I now have enough examples for the requisite amount of crosswicking (though more are still welcome). Any consensus on the title?
  • September 5, 2012
    NESBoy
    • Subverted in one episode of I Love Lucy. In it, Ricky forces Lucy to take a vow. Lucy, with one arm behind her back, begins saying the vow, but then Ricky pulls her arm out to reveal her crossed fingers, and separates them.
  • September 5, 2012
    XFllo
    Ad name: How about Crossed My Fingers To Lie?
  • September 5, 2012
    CaveCat
    ^That sounds like a line of dialogue, and you know what the rules say about trope names that are lines of dialogue.
  • September 5, 2012
    XFllo
    ^^ Cave Cat, sorry, I didn't know that. I still feel new to this wiki. Next time I'll know better:-)
  • September 5, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    You know what they sa-... wait, no: No New Stock Phrases (read for why not).
  • September 5, 2012
    originalhobbit
    Cross your fingers to deceive?
  • September 6, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    I don't know if snowclones are allowed either...
  • September 6, 2012
    Xtifr
    Most of the new suggestions are longer but no clearer or wittier, which is no improvement. As I see it, we have two real candidates: Lying Finger Cross, which is clear and concise, but not witty, and Cross My Fingers And Hope To Lie, which is clear and witty, but not concise. By the current guidelines, we should slightly prefer the former, but I'm honestly torn.
  • September 6, 2012
    Firlodge
    I think you need to settle on a name before it's ready to publish.
  • September 6, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
  • September 6, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    I'm afraid I haven't a clue how to make or attach a crowner to anything...
  • September 6, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    That is why I linked to How Crowners Work :P Anyone can make; only mods can attach, but it doesn't need to be, and not sure that is possible anyway.
  • September 7, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
  • September 9, 2012
    StevenT
    In the Gravity Falls episode "Fight Fighters" makes a promise to Grunkle Stan and puts on a sweater with a hand doing the "Scout's honor" gesture on the front. When she turns her back to the fourth wall we see the back of her sweater has a hand with its fingers crossed.
  • September 11, 2012
    ArkadyDarell
    Well, the crowner seems in favor of Lying Finger Cross, so I'll probably launch this tomorrow under that title barring any changes in the voting. Maybe I'll add some other options as redirects.
  • September 12, 2012
    ParadiscaCorbasi
http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/discussion.php?id=19f1t1tv7mkl45dkgqo5l138