Lying Finger Cross
A character crosses their fingers while making a vow, oath, etc., to show they're lying.
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(permanent link) added: 2012-08-15 14:18:56 sponsor: ArkadyDarell (last reply: 2012-09-12 18:03:25)

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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 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.
  • 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.

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