Texas Myth #321

That’s a bloomin’ lie, one that, like the bluebonnet itself, seems to re-seed, not recede, every year. No law forbids picking the state flower. However, it is illegal to trespass on private property to gather bluebonnets or remove so many you cause unsightly damage. If you do pick a few, expect dirty looks. Texans frown on the practice, legal or not, because the flower inspires reverence and uprooting it keeps baby bluebonnets from popping up next year.

Q: After those wacky Norwegians misinterpreted the “Hook ’em, Horns” sign—flashed at the inauguration by George W., Laura, and Jenna Bush—as a satanic symbol, I started wondering what that particular gesture might mean in other cultures. Also, it’s obviously the best-known university hand sign in the world; is it also the oldest?

A: Let’s think digital here: It’s a Buddhist mudra (prayerful gesture) to ward off evil and an Italian sign for “cuckold.” In American Sign Language, it means “bullshit” (or, if the thumb is extended, not folded inward, “I love you”). In Russia, it’s a derogatory motion for “nouveau riche,” and in parts of Africa, a curse. In its incarnation as the Hook ’em sign, it turns fifty this year. The index-finger-and-pinkie symbol was devised in 1955 by University of Texas student Henry Pitts and head cheerleader Harley Clark, who decided that since the archrival Aggies had a school sign, the Longhorns needed one too. Clark introduced the gesture at a pep rally, and by game time the following day, UT’s entire student body was hooked. As for which hand sign is the country’s oldest—well, the prospect of polling the 2,700 or so colleges in the U.S. makes me feel like flashing a well-known non-school sign. But as far as Texas universities go, A&M’s “Gig ’em” fist dates back to 1930, making it an even more venerable 75 years old.

Q: Like any good Texan, I know that April 21 is San Jacinto Day, the day in 1836 when Sam Houston and his men whomped Santa Anna et al in record time, shouting, “Remember the Alamo! Remember Goliad!” What I want to know is, Was there really a saint named Jacinto?
A: Holy moly, what a great question! Yes, there was; he was a Pole born around 1200 (actual name: Jacinth) who became a Dominican monk at the tender age of twenty and was a good-deed-doer all his life. But he had zero connection

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