Sticky Fingers

In a recent report, the Wall Street Journal cited some shocking statistics about Americans who steal merchandise from stores. People in the U.S. shoplift 1.6 billion—that’s billion with a B—dollars worth of goods every year.

The interesting name that the reporter gave this theft was “sticky fingers.” Now, this is an idiom which means “theft” or “the tendency to steal.”

I like using colorful idioms because they often paint a picture of what the meaning is. In this case, the item to be stolen will automatically stick to a person’s hand (and then he or she will hide it in his/her coat or pocket or purse). So, what are sticky-fingered Americans stealing?

The top five are, in order,

1. wine or spirits

2. make-up

3. jewelry

4. swimwear

5. sunglasses

This makes sense because these items are all small and easily hidden on a person. Just remember, the next time you hear someone talking about sticky fingers, it may not because they need a napkin. They could be doing something unlawful!  

Alan Headbloom

Alan advises Americans how to be global citizens and expats how to fit in to Michigan culture without annoying their native coworkers and clients. He also tweets and blogs at the intersection of language and culture. Over decades, he's traveled, studied, or lived on six continents, putting strange foods into his mouth and emitting strange sounds from it. His use of English, German, Spanish, Portuguese, French, Swedish, Hausa, and Japanese all improve with alcohol use. He gives invited public presentations on culture and unsolicited private advice on English grammar and usage; the latter isn't always appreciated. Visit his website for information on consulting, coaching, or speaking engagements.