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I see characters making this motion frequently in anime. They pull one (or sometimes both) eyelid down, and stick out their tongue. What does that mean? Where does the gesture originate and what's the history behind it?

eyelid 1 eyelid 2 eyelid 3 eyelid 4

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This is the Eyelid Pull Taunt

This is the act of pulling down one lower eyelid and sticking out the tongue and saying "Beh-da!" (Japanese) or "Nyaaaah!" (English dub). A highly ritualized expression of disdain or disapproval, used exclusively by children and immature adults. Basically the same as the Western act of sticking out the tongue, cranked up a few notches, though definitely not profane gesture.

In Japan this is referred to as akanbe (a corruption of akai me, "red eye"), and it's called mon oeil ("my eye") in France and Quebec. This is in fact a Franco-Japanese cultural trope, but you'll see it everywhere in anime.

I could not find a satisfying or credible enough link as to its origin(s) but from the akanbe wiki it seems to date back as far as the 20th century:

The use of the term was first mentioned by early 20th century author Katai Tayama, in his 1909 story Inaka Kyōshi (田舎教師 Rural Teacher), as a gesture used by the male students in the story.

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    @Danalog you didn't ask that in the question. I will poke around a bit more. – iKlsR Jul 31 '13 at 17:24
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    +1 But how exactly is it a "Franco-Japanese cultural trope"? – coleopterist Jul 31 '13 at 17:28
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    @iKlsR Sorry, I updated the question. I intended to ask for more information than just the basics, and just didn't word it right. – Danalog Jul 31 '13 at 17:31
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    @coleopterist from the tropes link it seems to have some roots in France as well. – iKlsR Jul 31 '13 at 17:32
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    @coleopterist ah, I could have sworn I had quoted the full tropes page.. hence the franco-jap bit.. :) Thanks for the patch. – iKlsR Jul 31 '13 at 17:51

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