Ukrainian Gestures | The Neck Flick


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I remember one night early on in training, sitting with my host mom in the kitchen chatting ( the best we could between languages) and her describing a recent visit she had from an old friend. She was describing her and their night when she started flicking the side of her neck. She looked at me expectantly as if that gesture would cross all language barriers and signify to me exactly what she meant. I looked at her quite confused as I had never seen someone do that before. With the help of google translate and some more pantomime ( You might not be fluent in both languages by the time you leave, but you will become an expert at interpreting charades) I understood that she was using that to signify that she had drank a lot.

Over the past 6 months I have see this gesture a lot from people all over the country who do it almost without thinking when talking about a person who drinks a lot of the behavior or someone after a night out. I heard a really interesting story as to it's origin and wanted to relay that here. After some research to confirm the theory I was told, here is the best back story I can find.

The origin of the neck flick.

So, the story goes, that someone (most commonly referred to as a carpenter, but also as a ship builder, or just a problem solving guy) solved a big problem for the Tsar at the time Peter the Great. (1672-1725) ( Ruled 1721-1725). Legend has it that the guy also really liked to drink alcohol ( read: he was an alcoholic) So considering his inclination towards drinking, he decided that the best reward or payment for his great deed to the Tsar was to be able drink (for free) at any bar within the Tsardom.

Peter the Great granted this request and bestowed this man with a certificate decreeing that he was entitled to free vodka upon presentation at any bar within the Tsardom. Well given the man's propensity to drink, a lot, unsurprisingly the man lost his certificate.... more than once. Peter the Great replaced it, as some sources say, a few times before finally one of the parties involved had enough.

I'd like to interject with a question/ request. What kind of favor/ solution would warrant this kind of dedication to upholding the reward. I would so enjoy to read any ideas in the comments below. It seems to me that if someone were to lose it enough I would just say too bad so sad but you've lost this privilege now.

Anyways, back to the story. So the good old ( often drunk man) is now without his certificate again. So, knowing that it would probably happen again, the man was branded on the neck ( think around the part where you check for someone's pulse) with either the certificate itself, or the official seal.

So now, anytime that man walked into a bar all he had to do was tip his head back to show his neck and flick the tattoo ( bringing attention to it) and would be served free alcohol.

Since, apparently, this man was such a prolific drinker, his legacy is to represent drinking or being drunk as indicated imitating his actions of flicking ones neck.

I have also heard that instead of only one man it was everyone the Tsar favored received the tattoo and other similar variants The one thing it all stems back to is tattoos on necks that allowed for ( presumably unlimited) free drinks.

Another variation was that it wasn't a problem that was solved but something that the carpenter/ building made that was exceptionally impressive.

Wrapping it up

So,you might be asking yourself, why is this a Ukrainian thing when it originated in the Tsardom of Russia (1547-1721) Well, during this period in time, a vast majority of present day Ukraine's territory was included within the boarders of the Tsardom.

There is a lot of shared history here and legends as goofy/ old school cool as this one are logically pervasive among both cultures.

Well, that is it for this time. If you have heard a different version of the story or have some guesses as to what the problem solution, favor, ect was that warranted this prize. Leave a comment below!

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