Monday, July 01, 2013

NYT: When Italians Chat, Hands and Fingers Do the Talking

by @azigra

Today's NYT is carrying a story about the history of gesticulations among Italians:

ROME — In the great open-air theater that is Rome, the characters talk with their hands as much as their mouths. While talking animatedly on their cellphones or smoking cigarettes or even while downshifting their tiny cars through rush-hour traffic, they gesticulate with enviably elegant coordination.
 The article may be of interest to Jews as well from an anthropological or sociological standpoint, since gesticulations have been apart of Jewish communal life as well. The habit seems to be most manifest when studying Jewish texts, and one theory quoted by the Times seems very apt:

Another theory, advanced by Adam Kendon, the editor in chief of the journal Gesture, is that in overpopulated cities like Naples, gesturing became a way of competing, of marking one’s territory in a crowded arena. “To get attention, people gestured and used their whole bodies,” Ms. Poggi said, explaining the theory.
 There is a story repeated about Shimon Shkop, a Rosh Yeshiva at RIETS (Yeshiva University) in the 1920s that whenever he lectured he kept his hands under the table since he didn't want any arguments or theories he was proposing to be aided in any way by his hand motions. For some reason, and it works, waving hands while discussing a topic helps with other people's willingness to accept or ability to understand an argument.

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