Folk Gesture – American

Pinkie Promise

Two people grasp each others’ pinkies and shake them. Similar to a hand-shake, but with only the pinkie (little) finger.

“It’s a hand gesture made between two people and it signifies that the promise that is verbally spoken during this hand gesture has to be kept. If a pinkie promise unfulfilled or broken, the guilty the party can no longer be friends with the other person, as per rules of the pinkie promise.

“I only really do them with a couple, because it’s like not really social acceptable for people my age, but it was a big deal in elementary school. It’s cute. If you ever used them as a kid you understand the implications that go along with it, and even as an adult you wouldn’t break them. It’s a binding contract because your friendship is on the line.”

The informant is a 19-year-old Caucasian student in the Los Angeles area, originally from Northern California. She follows the Jewish faith. She also comes from a very large family with 8 other siblings.

The pinkie promise is a piece of children’s folklore. Children’s folklore forges an informal folk group. This is demonstrated in the fact pinkie promises are typically made from one child to another. The pinkie promise also can align with the children’s interest in secrecy (Oring 102). Often children pinkie promise to keep a secret. Also, the informant’s remark that pinkie promising at her age (in adulthood) is no longer socially acceptable demonstrates another hallmark item of children’s folklore: once one passes from childhood, the folklore is no longer applicable.

Oring, Elliott. Folk Groups and Folklore Genres: an Introduction. Logan, UT: Utah State UP, 1986. Print.