OPINION: Talk to the hand! Do you still talk with your hands?

PUBLISHED: 10:00 12 October 2020 | UPDATED: 10:00 12 October 2020

Is this 'call me' sign now out of date with the youth of today? Picture: Getty Images

Is this 'call me' sign now out of date with the youth of today? Picture: Getty Images

Are you talking with your hands more or less while wearing a face mask?

Well, would you believe it? The old-established hand-signal for a phone call could very soon become obsolete. You know the sign I mean: as the hand is held up to the ear the thumb is extended as far as it will go, while at the same time the little finger, the pinkie, is doing the same.

Actually, now I come to think of it, I haven’t seen anybody doing this finger/thumb stuff for ages as a way to get me to call them. I suppose it’s because most people use texting or WhatsApp or whatever these days instead of that particular hand gesture.

Apparently it’s not only that hand signal that’s becoming obsolete. Scribbling in the air on one hand to request your bill or tapping your wrist to ask what time it is are signs that the younger generation is finding it hard to fathom. Signs of the times (do pardon the pun) I daresay.

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Does anybody remember the days when you’d wind down the car window and wave your hand slowly up and slowly down as a signal that you were decreasing speed? Or how about the one where you signalled a circular motion as an invitation for somebody to overtake? With the amount of technology a car carries these days I suspect that if you made this kind of signal nowadays very few people under 60 would understand what all the hand-waving and arm-wagging added up to.

The other thing that’s likely to happen with all the fast traffic is you watching your arm being swiped off and swept away. We use our hands a lot, often without realising it. It can be so irritating too. Just look at the way TV reporters wave their hands about; it’s hugely annoying, and they often don’t realise they’re doing it. It was a habit I used to have, not actually aware of it until I looked back at recordings in later years. Oh, how irritating it used to be! Hand gesturing may be going out of fashion, only to be replaced by something just as irritating: leaning up against the handiest tree, wall, road sign that the reporter can find. Has the job become so strenuous that the poor mites need propping up?

When I worked as a barmaid in a London pub one hand gesture that became particularly annoying was the clicking fingers; the posher the pub, the louder the clicks. It was tweedy blokes in slick and sporty cars who were the worst offenders. Many a time an odious punter would click his way out of getting any service. Funny how much more deaf I became as his clicks got more desperate.

I admire the patience of people behind the bar, especially when they deal with drunks. It’s a skill they may no longer have to use now that Covid’s haunting the pubs and nobody is allowed to queue at the bar any more. Maybe it’s something to celebrate. I do hope some hand gestures survive, some that even the younger generation might be able to work out, like wanting a cup of tea or blowing a kiss. We might borrow the old French one of shrugging your shoulders when you don’t know an answer

Now we’re all behind masks a lot of those old gestures might make a comeback. I was on the receiving end of one the other day that’s unlikely to go out of fashion: the rage of the driver short on patience. As he overtook me he practised this well known signal.

I think I knew what he meant and it wasn’t a cup of tea he was asking for.

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