Gesture: ‘Whatever major loser’


Description: W, E, M, L formed with fingers one after another


Informant: “The ‘Whatever Major Loser’ gesture was literally all the rage back in middle school [circa 2013]. My friends and I saw it in Camp Rock [Disney Channel Movie] and literally couldn’t stop doing it.”


Both the phrase “whatever major loser” and the “loser” hand gesture came to prominence in American culture in the ’90s and were seen as phrases/acts of non-compliance and defiance. Like most gestures which symbolize non-verbal cultural beliefs and attitudes, the “L” loser hand gesture, which is traditionally made with the index finger and thumb and directed towards others, symbolizes the more-rebellious and sarcastic nature of teenage and youth culture in the ’90s and is commonly interpreted as an act of playful or dismissing banter. The phrase “whatever major loser” symbolizes the same values and acts as the verbal counterpart to the gesture. Both the saying and gesture were popularized by media and pop culture throughout the ’90s and 2000s and are stylized in many youth/young adult TV shows and films.

Although less commonly seen, expressing a combination of the two symbols through 4 finger gestures of “W, E, M, L” carries the same tonality and weight as either symbol. However, unlike its slightly older counterparts, the W-E-M-L hand gesture saw its popularity grow in ‘Tween’ American culture in the early 2010’s as a more updated version of the ‘L’ gesture. The evolution of the two symbols into a brand new one designed for a new generation of ‘wannabe’ rebels shows both the permanence of this relatively newer stylization of lore as well as how rapidly evolving newer trends/lore have to be to stay relevant in a post-internet era. Because of society’s access to so many information, trends, and constantly changing cultural references, even gestures need to stay up-to-date to reflect the generations that follow.