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Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/497

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481
GREETING BY GESTURE.

"hand-shaking" but hand-taking and pressing. The French expressions are "serrer la main" and "donner une poignée," or more fully "échanger une poignée de main." The translated Gaelic phrase is "Give me the hand," and the German is "Hand reichen" or "Hand geben." The quotation so often made from Virgil, where Æneas says to his father Anchises, "Da jungere dextram," indicates only union. It does not appear that any language but English has the familiar and colloquial form "shake hands" or its equivalent, and this is because the hands are not often shaken among other than English-speaking peoples. No more motion is normally employed than is needed to give emphasis, that is, pressure, to the union, and, except when the gesture is made by awkward persons, the pump-handle is not put into operation. Cases of great excitement, real or simulated, formed exceptions, and the ostensible, perhaps ostentatious, motions derived from such exceptional cases must be classed as extrinsic to the intent and unrelated to the origin of the gesture.

When it is considered necessary to do something obvious in connection with the grasp, as if to proclaim that the act of peace and good-will is performed, peoples not of English origin and not under English influence have devices differing from the "shake." On the Niger the ceremony is completed by the two parties taking loose hold of the fingers of each other's hands and then slipping them, making at the same time a snapping noise with the aid of the thumb. In the same region the Lander party complained of being obliged to "crack fingers" along with other ceremonies. According to Schweinfurth, the Niam-Niam and the Monbutto extended their right hands on meeting, "and joined them in such a way that the two middle fingers cracked." The action is essentially not hand-taking, still less hand-shaking, the object being to join in making a noise by the fingers to emphasize union.

A parallel exhibition of the savage idea that satisfaction should not be silent is in the still extant custom of those Bedouins who pride themselves on their breeding. When they sip coffee they make a noise with their lips such as a horse makes in drinking, which among them is the criterion of the man accustomed to the usages of polite society; he who is in the habit of sipping it noiselessly being regarded as a person whose social education has been neglected. The Zuñi and other Indians, whose sole test of festal enjoyment is in repletion, show their gratification by pronounced and elaborate eructations.

It must be noticed that a mutual struggle for the privilege of kissing the hand could only occur in contention of courtesy between equals. It would be a sign of displeasure for the recognized superior to withdraw his hand from his inferior; and special