Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/500

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.
484
THE POPULAR SCIENCE MONTHLY.

repeated with the left hand uppermost, for "peace." The idea of union or linking is obvious. Other deaf-mutes, to express friendship, link the index-fingers twice, first holding the left hand hack down and then turning it back up.

In this connection it is to be noted that the Japanese, in actual salutation, not merely as a sign of it, only indicate the hand-grasp. They fumble with their own hands in greeting, instead of troubling those of the person greeted, which is a proof of their refinement, deserving of imitation in the United States, where the continual and promiscuous hand-taking, which often is hand-shaking, is a serious nuisance, and is properly ridiculed by foreign visitors. The habit, however, is not peculiar to the United States, most Teutonic peoples having the same and being also ridiculed by the French. The Chinese, with a higher conception of politeness, shake their own hands. The account of a recent observer of the meeting of two polite Celestials is: "Each placed the fingers of one hand over the fist of the other, so that the thumbs met, and then, standing a few feet apart, raised his hands gently up and down in front of his breast. For special courtesy, after the foregoing gesture, they place the hand which had been the chief actor in it over the stomach of its owner, not on that part of the interlocutor." The whole proceeding is symbolic, but doubtless is a relic of objective performance. The Chinese symbol for friend, dok, is two hands.

Some writers have conjectured that the custom of giving and taking hands is derived from the giving and taking of presents, often an obligatory act of friendship. In several countries objects, perhaps of no value, must always be exchanged on the meeting of friends. To offer, accept, or refuse a hand undoubtedly has import, independent of the manner of junction. Other suggestions have been made to the effect that the hand-grasp was symbolic of the action by which physical help is frequently rendered, as by raising up a comrade who has fallen into a hole. A more poetical concept is clearly indicated in the Oto addition to the common sign for friend: Both hands are brought open before the chest, then extended, and the left hand, with palm up, is grasped crosswise by the right with palm down, and held thus several seconds. The hands are then unclasped, and the right fist is held in the left axilla, by which it is firmly grasped. "One whom I will not let go."

Indians have another mode of expressing "union," "friend," and specifically "brother," and "growing up together." They hold the right hand in front of and back toward the neck, index and second fingers extended, touching, pointing upward and slightly to the front, the others and thumb closed; raise the hand, moving it slightly to the front until tips of fingers are as