V for Victory: The Gruesome Origin of the Iconic Hand Gesture

Spot a Trojan, give them a V for victory – they will reciprocate. No matter if you just boarded a plane in Tokyo, are boating down the Mississippi River, or you are a block away from USC’s campus, it is not out of the ordinary to witness fellow Trojans acknowledging each other by holding up their first two fingers. Often, the words, “Fight on” follow.

 

 

Those not familiar with the hand gesture probably believe we are trying to spread world peace. Or maybe they believe we are reliving our elementary school days when we had to use the restroom and subsequently raise the number two in the air because, well…you get it. Not saying Trojans aren’t doing those things – but at USC, the symbol universally resembles a V, for victory of course.

 

 

USC is victorious in education, sports, research, film, the list goes on…so the V for victory is self-explanatory. Nevertheless, the symbol goes beyond the 1880 USC Trojans. Its roots are from Homer’s Iliad, written in the 8th Century B.C.

Back in Homer’s Trojan War, the Trojans would defeat opponents and cut off their enemies’ first two fingers on their right hands. Doing so would prevent them from holding a sword, eliminating them from fighting on* the battlefield. To demonstrate their victory, the Trojans held their two fingers high, taunting their fingerless enemies.

 

 

As Trojans at USC, we do not cut off our enemies’ fingers (hopefully not anyways...), but we sway our two fingers forward and backward in unison at every victorious moment. Our opponents resent us. They resent our flailing fingers taunting their defeat. Maybe not all that much has actually changed since the Trojan War after all. Watch out, UCLA.           

 

*pun intended