Probably some clever semiotician has written about this, but the recent bizarre affair of La Quenelle got me to wondering: “When is an inversion not a significant inversion?” Or rather, when does a physical inversion not invert the signification?
The lewd gesture, invented by the French comedian Dieudonné M’bala M’bala (described by The Independent as a “black French comedian”, for some reason) is described by The Independent thus
An arm with an outstretched finger is pointed at the ground. The other arm is folded across the chest. The hand is placed on the first arm, showing how far up your enemy’s backside you wish to slide your “quenelle”. This hand is sometimes moved suggestively upwards.
Anyway, the gesture has been described as anti-semitic, and the above-linked article describes how a footballer has been punished for performing the gesture on the field. How can a gesture be anti-semitic? one wonders. Is this like the joke about the woman who calls the police to complain about the man who whistles bawdy tunes when he walks past her house? Continue reading “The meaning of inversion”