Page:Popular Science Monthly Volume 38.djvu/649

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GREETING BY GESTURE.

Both motions, however, are interconnected, and the weight of testimony inclines against both of his explanations. Most of his views expressed in his chapters on Ceremonial Institutions are beyond controversy, but regarding some portions in the narrow field of the present discussion there is now more known, through scientifically conducted explorations, than when those chapters were written. It is now possible to approach the subject from a direction to which Darwin led the way in his volume on The Expression of the Emotions in Man and Animals, and from study of the sign-language as still extant among some bodies of men.

Among several tribes the chief must never see any head more elevated than his own, so that the sitting posture, though one of greater ease, is one of respect. This is mentioned by the French missionaries in 1611 regarding the Iroquois and northern Algonquins. Sitting and kneeling are more distinct in territory than in concept. The male foot-scrape and the female courtesy, recently common in Europe in connection with the bow, may be relics of kneeling or simply of pretended lowering of the stature. Japan was emphatically the "kneeling country." The very costume of the Tycoon's court required the silk trousers to form an angle at the heels so as to trail far behind, thus simulating kneeling even when walking. But the Japanese habitually did not sit except in a semi-kneeling crouch, so that kneeling was to them the normal mode of lowering the person. In some other countries it was also forbidden to stand erect in the ruler's presence, but sitting took the place of kneeling. In Java sitting down is a mark of respect; in the Mariana Islands the inferior squats to speak to a superior, who would consider himself degraded by sitting in the presence of one who should be objectively as well as figuratively "below" him. Similar rules of etiquette prevail in Rotouma. Some of the African kings ingeniously reconcile the relative elevation with their own comfort by sitting down themselves while their subjects squat, kneel, or crouch. Prof. Hovelacque explains the dismounting of Kirghiz horsemen, when they salute, on the principle of descending from an elevation through courtesy. It is, however, probable that such dismounting is required as a measure of precaution, on the same principle that a horseman approaching a military picket is required to dismount before giving the countersign. This is both to insure the countersign being spoken so low as not to be overheard, and also to render less feasible a sudden attack and dash through the lines.

The relative elevation is an example of what is taught by oral as well as sign language to express the concepts of superior and inferior, above and below, high and low. A Cheyenne sign for "chief" pantomimically shows "he who stands still and commands;" but the most common sign consists in raising the index-