Monday, January 24, 2011


Our driver braked sharply, as the car at a stop sign on a side street made a right turn right in front of us, and drove off at high speed. A fellow-passenger made a disgusted gesture with a middle finger at the retreating vehicle. The miscreant could not have seen it, but it undoubtedly made my fellow-passenger feel better. Another person commented "American Sign Language" and we laughed, intending no disrespect to the wonderful communication system so named, developed for those with speech and/or hearing challenges.

I reflected on the many types of non-verbal communication with one person's hands, which most of us would recognize. Here are some of them:

1. Thumbs up, and thumbs down: universally understood to show approval o dis approval.

2. One or more fingers--usually the whole hand, facing the gesturer, beckoning one or more others to approach.

3. Arm--usually the right, raised, with palm of the hand facing out, meaning "stop!".

4. Shoulder shrug, usually accompanied by facial movement, and often by outstretched hands, indicating indifference.

5. Arms crossed and held up in front of the gesturer: stop there (as when helping someone park.

6. Single hand, facing inward outside an open mouth: a real or pretended yawn, indicating sleepiness or boredom.

7. Hands held, palms together, as if in prayer, leaning forward: making an important

8. Hands held, palms together, facing another, bowing slightly: "peace to you" .

9. Single fist, shaken towards another person, indicating anger.

10. Clenched fists, moved up and down: enthusiastic encouragement, as in "Go, team!"

11. Single hand, palm down, moved slightly down: : "No, thank-you"

12. One hand miming writing on the other hand: "Please bring the bill!"

13. Arm raised, hand high: "Call on me, teacher!"

14. Single fist, thumb extended up and to the rear: "Get outta here!"

15. Both arms extended upward: "Touchdown!" (or other athletic success).

If others occur to you, please comment: remember, no "high fives", and no other body language. These are just examples using arms and hands of a single person. When i began to list them, I certainly didn't expect to think of so many.

1 comment:

  1. Right hand holding up a yellow or red card, in the direction of a miscreant in soccer.