Tag Archives: gesture

Jeep Wave

Main Piece:

So my thing is more of a gesture. It’s kind of something that happens and I didn’t know about it till after I got my car. But basically, once you get the Jeep, there’s something known as a Jeep wave. And so basically it’s with, I don’t really know, like, I think there are different variations of how you do it. But the one I was told is that you put one hand and one hands on the wheel, and it’s just like, three of your fingers are just like couple your fingers up. And it’s the idea is if you see a Jeep, like driver and you and you’re driving your Jeep and you’ll see each other you do a Jeep wave. And it’s a form of like a community type thing, but like it’s really just like a wave that you do. So

Relationship to the Piece:

My informant has driven a Jeep for the last few years and was told this by his friend who also drove a Jeep and it’s become a way for him to connect to his community of Jeep drivers, especially as he recently began to drive his Jeep around LA. 


My informant is a 19-year-old BFA lighting design student at the University of Southern California and I was told this as we were hanging out in a theatre on campus swapping tales of folklore. 


I’d never heard of the Jeep wave, but I think it makes sense, as especially in America, the cars we drive often become aspects of our identity, especially with all the stereotypes we associate with certain makes and models of vehicles. It makes sense that a little community would form around certain cars, but it also creates questions, like who began the gesture and how it spreads. 

The “nod”

KS is a 56 year old father of five who grew up in and resides in Southern Maryland. He is African American and has had his fair share of struggles as a black man.

Context: Black men have always been disregarded in society as less than. Throughout history, black men have been ostracized and discriminated against. The nod developed over time in communities and became a universal gesture in America. This was collected over dinner.


Collector: So what exactly is the “nod”?

KS: The nod is of huge significance between us black men. It is essentially a shared gesture among black men in which when we see each other in passing or see each other in the same space, we subtly nod at each other to indicate that we “see each other”. It’s more significant than it seems. It is a gesture of respect and recognition of each other, especially if we are in a space where we are the only black men.

Collector: Where did you learn to do this?

KS: Hmmm…. *silence* I’m honestly not quite sure. I think I just picked it up over the years and as I watched my brothers and father practice it and as I experienced more racial problems, I understood and just started doing it. It was not until I was in my teens that I realized the full meaning of the gesture. I do it to almost every black man I see, even if they don’t do it back.

Thoughts/Analysis: This is something that is both culturally and emotionally significant.
With the BLM movement very much alive and the abuse of power against black men by police officers, mutual recognition of each other’s presence and a sign of respect is necessary. This exchange reflects unity between black men and defines them closely as a folk group.

For other variations and information about the “nod”, see:

WUWM 89.7 FM | By LaToya Dennis. “The Head Nod & How It’s Used to Communicate Safety between Black Men.” WUWM 89.7 FM – Milwaukee’s NPR, February 23, 2021. https://www.wuwm.com/arts-culture/2021-02-19/the-head-nod-how-its-used-to-communicate-safety-between-black-men.

Press Down/Pat Head

AW is a 19 year old college student. She is a freshman computer science major and loves basketball. She played as a child and closely follows professional basketball today.

Context: This is performed during a basketball game, both amateur and professional. This was collected at the collectors house after eating dinner.


Collector: Are there any basketball gestures that only players or super-fans would know?

AW: Oh for sure. Two that kind of go together are when a player pats their head or presses their hand down by their side *gestures to collector*.

They are kind of opposites but also very similar if that makes sense? When a player pats their head after making a basket or playing good defense, it is them boasting about how they are bigger than the person guarding them. But when a player presses down, they basically refer to how short or small the person guarding them is. So if a player makes a basket after being guarded, they can press down or pat their head as a boast of how big they are compared to the other person. It just depends on if they want to refer to their height or the other players lack of height. I think it’s pretty f*cking funny.

Pat head gesture
Press down gesture

Thoughts/analysis: These two gestures are a reflection of basketball and sports culture overall. When the players do well, they do not just praise themselves as individuals, they do so by putting other players down in a competitive way. This form of body language not only exhibits confidence in one’s self, but it is also used to get into the head of the opposing team. Overall, I thought these gestures were fun because it conveys a strong message without using words that could get players flagged for misconduct. It could also be interesting for teams to create variations of this that are unique to them. That could create a special identity for them.

Knock on Wood

GESTURE: Knocking on wood when speaking of one’s good fortune


CONTEXT: This woman was saying how happy she was and how lucky she felt and immediately knocked on a wood surface next to her. She says she learned this gesture from her family. Whenever you speak of something good in your life or something positive you want to happen you must knock on wood.

ANALYSIS: This traces back to Jesus who she says was the step son of a carpenter, Joseph. Also Jesus was crucified on a wooden cross, she says when we knock on wood we are saying “God help us” or “God willing.” It is an anti-jinx mechanism that is supposed to prevent you from bad luck.

THOUGHTS: I learned this when I was a baby and have always practiced this gesture. Every single time I am grateful out loud I knock on wood or anytime I say something that I want to happen/come true. For me the wood symbolism doesn’t really matter, but the act of doing it unconsciously makes me feel like I have anti-jinxed myself.

Cemetery Gesture

DESCRIPTION OF GESTURE: When you see, come across, or pass a cemetery you must immediately touch your hair with your hands.


CONTEXT: This gesture was taught to her by her grandmother who was from Finland. She never knew where she learned it from but employed it her whole life. She said it meant you were adverting death. A way to not call death upon yourself, sort of like the evil eye. She said if you would see the dead they would come for you and since your hair was already dead it is a way to come into contact and save yourself.

THOUGHTS: I do think this gesture is very unique and seems to be very specific. I find the part about our hair already being dead fascinating and seems to make a little more sense to me.