Do you do this? You’ll be talking to a friend when suddenly
you start describing an e-mail conversation that you had with someone. Then to
illustrate that it was an e-mail
conversation, you will hold both hands out from your body, palms down, then wiggle
“So I e-mailed him as soon as I got home, ‘Dude, you are like, so lame for saying that.’”, said Jane as she wiggled her fingers.
Think about it. Do you do this? I definitely do. (Although I try not to)
The wiggling of one’s fingers is the universal sign for describing an e-mail conversation. (This is also the universal sign for “magic spells” and “ghost haunting” but those are beyond the scope of this post.)
The universal sign for “telephone” is that gesture where you make a fist, then extend your thumb and pinky in the shape of a receiver. However, when relaying a phone conversation, we never use this gesture. (This is also the sign for “hang loose, dude” but also beyond the scope of this post.)
What is it about the e-mail conversation that makes it necessary to gesticulate in such an odd and animated way? When describing a written conversation, I don’t pinch my thumb and index finger and wave it about like I'm conducting a symphony. Or describing something said on the radio, I don’t mime headphones and a microphone.
I find it fascinating that certain gestures make their way into our culture as perfectly acceptable ways to describe or emphasize an emotion or action. Maybe it's because I'm half Italian? When Italians have a conversation it makes deaf people dizzy.
What gestures have you noticed?