This is a blog about music, photography, history, and culture.
These are photographs from my collection that tell a story about lost time and forgotten music.

Mike Brubaker
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Charming the Snook

16 November 2018

Cocking a Snook.
Five pretty fingers times four.
Is it a tease? Is it a taunt?
Even with four smiles
we can't be sure.
Is it flirtatious sport or something worse?

Voila ce que vous me faites.
Cela vous Sera rendu
mais pas par moi.

je Souffre


That's what you do to me.
It will be returned
to you but not by me.

I am suffering


_ _ _

From left to right:
Miss Mac Sprit    Miss Haslam   Miss Cairns   Miss Wood

photo by Walery  - Paris

Wriggling the fingers with thumb to the nose is a gesture not seen much anymore, certainly not on my side of the Atlantic. For extra emphasis two hands may be used. It's called Cocking a Snook and is not intended as a nice thing. Traditionally it's associated with English customs as a signal of derision, usually made by annoying children. The internet has little to report on the origin of the phrase or the sign language. Perhaps the smiles of the four young women making this rude salute should temper our interpretation as being more on the coquettish side of expressions. Certainly the sender of this postcard has his or her own meaning for cocking a snook.

Their postcard was sent from Geneva, Switzerland
on 12 October 1902
To Mademoiselle Louise Berlhalch(?).
But the card did not originate in Geneva but in Paris.
Hidden in the upper right cornet of the postcard is a small logo:
Alcazar d'Été

The Alcazar d'Été was a café-concert, a French version of the music hall and similar to a cabaret. It was located on the Champs-Élysées in Paris behind the Élysée Palace. It was a popular Parisian venue for many 19th century and early 20th century entertainers, mainly vocalists. It closed in 1914.

Miss Haslam at the Alcazar d'Été
Presumably these four ladies were British singers and dancers on its stage in 1902  Miss Haslam posed for a solo portrait which I suspect was taken on the same occasion by the Walery studio. Here she chooses a more discrete pose, though still showing off an ankle. Did she and her companions sing in French or English? What exactly did they mean by cocking a snook?

Joseph Stalin - Cocking a Snook
Source: Wikipedia

This is my contribution to Sepia Saturday
where everyone has a thing to fling.


Barbara Rogers said...

Never heard of it, but am glad the ladies are smiling while sending that message of whatever meaning. Stalin, I'm pretty sure isn't sending anything favorable to anyone!

La Nightingail said...

Americans call "Cocking a snook" "The five-fingered salute" so I don't think it can mean anything particularly nice. :) I think we could all agree that most likely it's meant to be a show of one's distain for someone or something. It's interesting to see young ladies doing it, however - especially back in that time of properness!

Kristin said...

I never knew a name for this gesture, but I have seen it. I believe my uncle Henry used to so it, or perhaps that was the hands in the ears, stick out the tongue thing that he did.

Susan Kelly said...

The first photo and the last one remind me of Monty Python images.

Kathy Morales said...

I had never heard this phrase, but called it thumbing your nose. All with the same meaning apparently. Great postcard. They look like they are having great fun being a bit naughty.

Mollys Canopy said...

This gesture was known as giving someone "the raspberry" when I was a kid -- a not nice version of thumbing the nose at someone. I seem to remember it being a taunt to another child, after which the one giving the raspberry had to take off running or face the consequences! Love those little caps in the first photo. I wonder if they are crocheted?


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