Open main menu

Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/506

This page has been proofread, but needs to be validated.

Micronesians, notably in the Pelew and Caroline Islands, took up either the hand or foot of the party respected and rubbed their own faces with it. Some religious sects—e. g., the Dunkers—also kiss one another's feet—after washing them.

The original concept expressed by the hand-kiss was that of "good." In very early times to possess what had a good taste was of the greatest importance to man, and therefore a good taste was the symbol of any good thing or person. So, when practicable, the hand of the person saluted was carried to the lips to signify that he was good. This act is naturally accompanied by the bowing of the head. The common gesture-sign for "good" in all senses is to carry the hand to and from the lips with a pleasant expression. The spontaneous expression of deaf-mutes is much the same, signifying not only greeting, but satisfaction, in short—good. Their full sign is described as "touch lips with palm or ends of fingers pointing upward, then wave the hands outward to the right and downward, turning palm up." This is a complete description of kissing one's own hand, but it has no relation to the kiss by the pairs of lips.

A common gesture-sign for "peace," the idea of friendship being more directly connected with that of "quiet," is made by placing the forefinger on the lips, which sign has often been erroneously reported as a kiss. Still another Indian sign, similar in motion and in conception, is that which, with variant emphasis and expression, means admiration, or surprise, or a high degree of content. Its essence consists in placing the hand upon or over the mouth, that being sometimes closed and sometimes open, though covered by the hand with rapid emphasis. In the former case it is interpreted to mean that language is inadequate to express the sensations felt. When the mouth is open, with the hand placed over it to attract notice, the sign represents surprise by imitation of the familiar and instinctive action attending that emotion. This sign also has been reported as a kiss of the hand. Another case where the same error might readily have occurred is also of interest, as showing a contrast with the Zuñi inhalation, giving an equally poetical concept. In equatorial Africa the hands of the person saluted are blown upon, with the words, "Let it be as smooth with you as the breath I blow on your hand."


Mr. W. T. Wyndham admires the skill with which the aborigines of Australia use stone implements, and turn out work that one would hardly believe possible with such rough tools. They show great ingenuity, particularly in making their harpoon-heads for spearing dugong and fish; instead of shaving the wood up and down as a European workman would do, they turn it round and round, and chip it off across the grain.