Tag Archives: gesture

Counting to 10 with one hand in Chinese


S, 19 was born in China and moved to Canada at a young age. She told me about a way of counting to 10 on a single hand through a series of hand and finger gestures. I took a video of the informant counting to 10 in this fashion.




This method of counting makes it convenient for a person to count using only one hand; it also is a good way of teaching children to count, since each number has its own gesture and it is different from traditional western finger counting (the number of fingers is the number you are on, so you are limited by the number of fingers you have). This method of counting allows a person to reach the number 100 by using both hands. This article further explains this method, as well as how to continue counting past 10: https://www.instructables.com/HOW-TO-COUNT-TO-TEN-ON-ONE-HAND-in-Chinese/

Arab Three Kiss Greeting

My informant (18), from Lebanon, describes a greeting: “So a standard Arab greeting, is, typically in the Middle-East, you have to do three kisses on the cheek. It must be on the cheeks. It’s not allowed to be an air kiss. It can be a cheek to cheek thing.”

The informant went on to explain further implications of the gesture, saying that if not done properly, “it’s gonna be a sign of disrespect. It’s typically used as a formality. So if you do any less than 3 it’s seen as informal. It’s like you didn’t complete the transaction of greetings which is very important in Arab culture. How to greet people, how to welcome them into your home. If you are welcoming an individual into your home and they don’t give you three kisses, […] then it’s seen as they don’t respect you, they don’t hold you to a high authority, they are uncomfortable in your home. And usually this is seen throughout most Arab culture. It’s not seen as a first formal greeting, it’s mostly done between family members. But it can also be seen as a casual greeting between family members. […] Like ‘you’re welcoming me into your home, you’re feeding me, you’re entertaining me, you’re bringing a smile to my face’. And everyone must do it and even kids are taught it from a young age. It’s mostly family, but, family and close friends. The main symbol is deep loyalty to one another.”

Because the greeting is both a gesture of respect and also mostly used for family members, we might expect that family is very important in this culture, especially respect between members of the same family. It is important to maintain a level of respect within tight social circles, and to communicate this respect and appreciation of hospitality.

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.