Friday, May 06, 2005

Beware of gestures

Things are tending toward the worse right now. Whatever I do it seems to get worse. Thus there's been a lot of finger crossing. The folk I'm working with right now are Filipino and Malaysian and it seems my finger crossing has caused some little puzzlement.

It's not as if I don't know that different cultures use different gestures to convey the same meaning or that the same gesture may mean something completely different to what I mean. But if you've been crossing your fingers for 45 years it's kinda hard to remember not to do it in an unfamiliar milieu.

Today they asked me what the heck it meant. So I explained. 'Wish me luck', 'good luck', 'man this had better work or I'm cutting my throat'. You know the range!

Ah, they laughed, thrusting a thumb between forefinger and middle finger! You mean this, shaking the entire appendage in my face! No, I had to say, that's an obscene gesture where I come from. More laughter. So I asked them if that gesture meant the same as mine. Ambiguous answers. Maybe a minute later the same gesture was used with unmistakeable language; they meant it in exactly the same way I would if I used the gesture! Heh, I forgive em; I'm not innocent of leading some foreigner astray for a laugh.

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