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What Hand Signals Should I Avoid When Traveling Abroad?

When you’re trotting the globe, it’s important to know when to keep your hands to yourself.

Thumbs up

In parts of Latin America, West Africa, Iran, and Sardinia, a thumbs-up doesn’t mean “Hey! Good job!” It’s more akin to flipping someone the bird. A friendly thumbs-up has landed lots of unwitting travelers on the wrong end of angry glares.

The OK sign

In many countries, the okay sign is anything but okay. In the Middle East, it’s a threat. In Turkey and Germany, it’s basically means, “You’re a jerk!” In Brazil, it’s just like giving someone the finger.

The peace sign

If your palm faces outward, the V-sign can symbolize peace. But in the UK, if you make the mistake of turning your palm inward, it means quite the opposite – a ruder version of “Take a hike!” If you’re ever in a pub and want to order a pair of drinks, don’t flash the bartender two fingers. You might accidentally order yourself a knuckle sandwich.

An open hand

Extending your arm and exposing your palm may seem like a cordial way to wave hello, but in Greece, it’s a not-so-cordial sign of disrespect. Centuries ago, the Byzantine Empire shamed criminals by painting their faces with black cinder, ash, dirt, and dung. Today, an extended open hand basically means you want to spread that concoction on your foe’s face.

Sign of the horns

Horns are great if you want to tell someone to rock on, but find an alternative if you’re in the Caucuses, Italy, Greece, or Spain. Over there, devil horns mean, “Your loved one is a cheater!” That’s because during the middle ages, men with cheating wives were shamed by donning horns.

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26 Facts About LEGO Bricks

Since it first added plastic, interlocking bricks to its lineup, the Danish toy company LEGO (from the words Leg Godt for “play well”) has inspired builders of all ages to bring their most imaginative designs to life. Sets have ranged in size from scenes that can be assembled in a few minutes to 5000-piece behemoths depicting famous landmarks. And tinkerers aren’t limited to the sets they find in stores. One of the largest LEGO creations was a life-sized home in the UK that required 3.2 million tiny bricks to construct.

In this episode of the List Show, John Green lays out 26 playful facts about one of the world’s most beloved toy brands. To hear about the LEGO black market, the vault containing every LEGO set ever released, and more, check out the video above then subscribe to our YouTube channel to stay up-to-date with the latest flossy content.

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Of Buckeyes and Butternuts: 29 States With Weird Nicknames for Their Residents
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Tracing a word’s origin and evolution can yield fascinating historical insights—and the weird nicknames used in some states to describe their residents are no exception. In the Mental Floss video above, host John Green explains the probable etymologies of 29 monikers that describe inhabitants of certain states across the country.

Some of these nicknames, like “Hoosiers” and “Arkies” (which denote residents of Indiana and Arkansas, respectively) may have slightly offensive connotations, while others—including "Buckeyes," "Jayhawks," "Butternuts," and "Tar Heels"—evoke the military histories of Ohio, Kansas, Tennessee, and North Carolina. And a few, like “Muskrats” and “Sourdoughs,” are even inspired by early foods eaten in Delaware and Alaska. ("Goober-grabber" sounds goofier, but it at least refers to peanuts, which are a common crop in Georgia, as well as North Carolina and Arkansas.)

Learn more fascinating facts about states' nicknames for their residents by watching the video above.

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