If you’ve ever been to a good rock show or wanted to look cool in a photo, and I mean any photo, you’ve probably turned your hands into little devil horns. For added coolness, maybe you even stuck your tongue out. Turns out, Chaim Witz, AKA Gene Simmons, the lead singer of KISS, believes this particular hand gesture belongs to him, so he filed an application to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office earlier this month to trademark it—”a hand gesture with the index and small fingers extended upward and the thumb extended perpendicular.” But criticism—and lots of debunking (Is it too generic to be only associated with Simmons?)—ensued. He’s since withdrawn the application.
According to Simmons, he dates his use of the hand gesture to November 14, 1974 during KISS’s Hotter Than Hell Tour, the band’s second. But numerous articles covering Simmons’s audacious legal claim show why he likely never would have had a case.
The Hollywood Reporter notes that the “sign of the horns,” according to its Wikipedia page, no less a legitimate source for legitimate knowledge, began “in India, as an apotropaic gesture very commonly used by Gautama Buddha (who was born in Nepal) as Karana Mudra which is synonymous with expulsion of demons and removal of obstacles like sickness or negative thoughts.” So there’s one strike. (While were on the topic of Wikipedia, Gene, for what it’s worth, I’d change your pic to one of you giving said gesture. Ya know, for consistency sake.)
It also means “I love you” in American Sign Language, which I’m fairly certain was used before 1974.
And here’s Marlon Brando in Guys and Dolls, giving the hand gesture (albeit without the thumb sticking out). Same could be said for the legions of University of Texas fans who flaunt “hook ’em horns” at every game.
And then there’s metal legend Ronnie James Dio, who died in 2010, who many people credit with first using these “metal horns.” When she heard of Simmons’s quest to trademark it, she called it “disgusting. Oh! And that little band called the Beatles and a guy named John Lennon who knew how groovy the gesture was all the way back in 1966.
— Chuck Nowlin (@ChuckNowlinWZLX) June 15, 2017
Still, Simmons, who was born in Israel, does have a point. He sure used it a lot. It’s just, well… he doesn’t seem to be the first.
Related: Q&A: Scott Ian