The Complicated World of Gestures

Many of us use gestures to illustrate our speech or to express ourselves without the use of words.

Dr. Matsumoto states, that gestures are basically all kinds of hand movements.  He explains that there are 2 types of gestures: speech illustrators and emblems. Emblems are gestures that convey specific verbal meaning that can exist without the use of words. Other gestures (that are not emblems) co-occur with words.

For example, the peace sign (pictured) is an emblem that is widely used in Iraq and the U.S. and means “peace”. This meaning has been converted from its former “V for victory” meaning during the protests of the Vietnam War.

However, not all emblems or gestures mean the same thing across people of all cultures.

As suggested in a recent Time Magazine photo piece, “In Great Britain, Ireland, and New Zealand, however, this gesture (the “peace” or “victory” gesture with the palm facing inward) is a vulgar insult that suggests you perform a sexual act on yourself, as U.S. President George H.W. Bush discovered in 1992, during a visit to Australia.”

In a new book entitled “Don’t get me wrong! The global gestures guide”, authors Julia Grosse and Judith Reker hooked up with fashion photographer Florian Bong-Kil Grosse to capture many gestures and their meanings across different cultures.

Their book seems like an interesting and informative tool for those that may travel internationally, or want to learn more about other cultures.

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