UNIQUE GESTURES

When Dane Archer spoke with the students in English as a Second Language classes, he would ask them about the gestures they knew of for good, bad, crazy, smart, come here, homosexual, two people in love, obscenity, suicide, etc. Some of the interesting ones he came across do not fit into any category he had thought of.

For example, Archer discovered the Japanese custom of tucking the thumbs into clasped fists when walking past a graveyard. The thumbs represent the parents, and this gesture supposedly protects them from death (see Japan). Another Japanese custom is the throat-slashing gesture, like one to mean suicide in the U.S. represents losing a job in Japan. Maybe this is the same as suicide in that country. Archer did not find any other country that had similar categories of gestures.

Other cultures show similar categorical diversity, says Archer. He found many cultures that had a gesture for homosexuality (such as in Ethiopia, the "OK" sign of the United States) but in all cases but one, it was referring to male or it was unspecified. Uruguay was the only society that had a gesture for "lesbian", which was two hands clapped together in parallel, as opposed to the motion of clapping in which the hands are crossed.

Some societies have gestures for "you are afraid," for example in Mexico, the gesture is five fingers up, touching. Despite the reputation for the U.S. being a violent society, there are no specific gestures that Archer came across that mean "let's fight."