Awkward Turtle

My informant is a 20-year-old College Student. She has a predominantly Polish heritage.

I was interested in asking my informant if she knew about any specific gestures that she had learned over the years that had some significance to her. She could not think of any with any real special significance, but she did inform me about the “awkward turtle”.

Informant: “Awkward turtle is just for awkward situations. When something awkward happens, you throw up the awkward turtle. You just put one hand flat on the other and wiggle your thumbs like turtle fins. I first saw it when I was at a battle of the bands in Toledo, Ohio. One of the drummers of a band dropped his stick and screwed up the whole song. They ended up having to stop playing and the lead singer was like, “ooh awkward turtle”, and did the gesture. The whole crowd then put their “hand turtles” in the air and did it with him. It was really weird because I was left out of this weirdness but I quickly put my hands up and conformed even though I had no idea what was going on. I still use the turtle today, it’s really funny for situations that are awkward because you don’t have to say anything, you just make the awkward turtle and other people catch onto it.”

Analysis: This piece is really interesting because of the way that the informant learned about it. She was in a large crowd and she only did it because she was mimicking what everyone else was doing. I think this says something about our society as Americans. We want to be grouped together and we are such social creatures that acceptance is the main goal. Even when we don’t know what we are doing, we go with the crowd so we don’t stand out. My informant was on the outside of this knowledge circle until she made her own awkward turtle and then she was inside the circle of this shared knowledge.