Finger on nose: making fast group decisions

Often it doesn’t matter what you decide, as long as you decide quickly and do something. Would you stand in front of train debating if you should jump left or right? Of course not. But often we hesitate in the face of similarly meaningless decisions for no good reason.

Life is filled with little situations where someone has to do some annoying job or another, but as no one wants to do it, long debates ensue over who should do it and why. Examples include picking up a bar tab, putting out the trash, or a thousand other little things.


My favorite solution to these decisions is what’s called Finger on Nose, Not It or Nose Goes.  The rules are simple.

Whenever there is a task no one wants to do, the following rules apply:

  1. At any time, anyone can put their finger on their own nose.
  2. This signals everyone paying attention to do the same.
  3. The last person to put their finger on their nose loses, and gets assigned the task.

It’s very simple and works fast.

While the decision is being discussed, quietly put your finger on your own nose and look at a friend. They’ll copy you, others will follow, and soon the person paying least attention is the last one, and gets stuck with whatever it is.

By this point everyone is usually laughing, increasing the odds the work at hand will actually be done. And next time, the loser of this round will be first to start the game to get revenge, ensuing the tradition continues.

I don’t know where this game started – but I learned it eons ago and I’ve taught it to many people. If you’ve heard of it before, or know the backstory, leave a comment. The web provided The Nose Goes rules page, The nose goes facebook group, and the nose variant of the card game Kings)

Next time you have a decision to make about who does something, give it a try.

18 Responses to “Finger on nose: making fast group decisions”

  1. Scott Berkun

    Livia: Awesome! Thanks for that link. I’ve always wondered where the term “dibs” comes from. No one knows, yet everyone uses it (in the U.S. anyway).

  2. Scott Berkun

    I’ve been asked twice how this is better than rocks/paper/scissors.

    The answer is easy:

    1. R/P/S works with only two players at a time. FON has no limit.
    2. R/P/S is nearly always best of three. It’s slow.
    3. There is nothing sneaky about R/P/S. FON demands sneakyness.

  3. Ryan Anthony

    We developed a small addition amongst my friends while we were in college. The typical situation, one where something should happen (like paying the tab or going to the liquor store – most things revolved around alcohol then…), began with someone first saying “Somebody should…” with an emphasis on the somebody, as that was the start of the game. The end of course, was when the second to last person got their finger to their nose. But that little audio cue helped include everyone so we usually weren’t sitting there waiting for someone to notice what was happening.

  4. Vin Turk

    I used to play this same game in highschool (Westchester NY) and we called it Ham n Eggs. As is the first person initiates the nose touch and says “ham n eggs”.

    No idea why we said that…

  5. Kerry

    In New Zealand we say ‘bags-not’ and put thumb on forehead. Otherwise pretty much the same.

  6. JoachimK

    I don’t know about the back story but in Denmark we use it as a drinking game but I can see the application to other decisions. I’m definitely going to try to get it into use among the friends.

  7. Clayton

    I would like to submit that someone must say “nose goes” out loud at the onset of the contest. If they do not, then people can spend countless seconds looking at their wiggling toes and or staring at the ceiling.

    The verbal notification at the onset of the game makes it that more efficient!!

  8. Micha? Paluchowski

    This looks a lot like a game children were playing back when I was in early primary school. Only there the last person to respond was the one from which supposedly odor was coming ;)

    Anyway, I would prefer and expect to be around people where there are no problems with finding candidates to do tasks. But I guess until we get to the point when a given group works this way, the above may be a good exercise.

  9. Scott

    If you ever visit Japan, be warned that the nose goes game is ineffective and potentially dangerous. Last weekend my friends and I (all Americans) went to a sushi restaurant near Tokyo. The sushi chef held up a package of what appeared to be some kind of brain substance. When he held it up, I immediately initiated the nose goes game in an aggressive attempt to catch a friend off guard. Quickly, everyone followed suit. Now, in Japan pointing at your nose with your index finger is a way to emphasize “me” (a custom that we were all aware of since we’ve been living there for 2 years, but unfortunately forgot in the heat of the moment). Essentially, the chef was asking “who wants to try this?” by holding up the package, and we were all answering “me” by pointing at our noses. We were all promptly served some fresh Cod Milt (which we learned only after we all promptly, and bravely ate it). Dozo

  10. Ken

    I saw this gesture used in this way on “American Dad” not long ago (Stan lost, of course) and wondered where it came from. I have seen it in a few movies but not used in this way. I have NEVER seen anyone use the finger to the side of the nose gesture in real life. On the other hand a finger to the tip of the nose I’ve seen in reality and in media and it has always meant “You got it right (on the nose)” often the person uses their other hand to point to the person who “got it right”.

  11. Jesus

    Like my coments if you are here because you saw it in the netflix show unbeliabable

  12. Mary Johnson

    I have never heard of this before. But just saw this done on a TV show and looked up to see if this really something or just something from the show.

    So please take into account when doing this – not everyone knows about it.



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