In our parting glance at the oddities of Russian gestures we return to “Mr. Badfinger” and verge on the theatrical. It’s once more round the park for some expressive Russian (non-verbal) communication.
Mr. Bad Finger revisited
After previously establishing the folly of pointing at a Russian, it’s worth mentioning that there is one socially acceptable version of pointing, but it only applies if the target is doing wrong. Paradoxically, it’s more animated and extreme than a solitary index-point could ever be. It’s the wag!
As with the curving finger-hook (meaning “come here”), it is also the antiquated stuff of black and white Victorian school dramas. Quaintly theatrical to Brits; this machine-gun of index fingers (usually administered with a theatrical expression of disapproval) is directed at someone who is doing wrong (in the mind of the wagger) and should stop right now.
Clink, pokey, slammer and stir
Truly creative this, and requiring both hands to perform: it’s “prison” by whatever name you call it.
Take two downward-palmed victory signs and overlay one pair of index/middle fingers centrally over the other at 90°. What does that resemble? Prison bars, naturally! Ingenious, and in polite circles: a discreetly muted reply to the question “So, where’s your brother/father/mother/sister then?”
This is pure theatrics and unlike most gestures, it’s a two-parter. It even takes a few seconds to perform! It’s cartoon professor time: the performer strokes a real (or imagined) beard by drawing fingers and thumb off the tip of the chin (ladies can join in too), whilst delivering an accompanying expression of brow-furrowed contemplation. Then with a wide-eyed visage of realisation, a dramatic point to the ceiling with a partially-raised arm finishes the performance. A silent, gestural “A-Ha!”, “Eureka!”, “Got it!”, effectively.
By the time a Russian has completed this piece of mini-theatre, he or she will have captured the attention of colleagues who will be poised and eager to hear the forthcoming revelation. To be used with only the very, very, very best ideas.
Never the Twain
As if in some strange conservation of energy, Russians may emphasise speech with one arm, whilst doing nothing with the other. Maybe left, maybe right, but not both together – unlike the Italians and other sunny Europeans who fold and knead the air in front of them like ethereal bread in a flowing bid to express themselves. With Russians, it’s not quite a karate chop, not quite a hammer blow and not quite a pounding fist, but it’s emphatic nonetheless, and it’s one-handed!
As it marks the meter of the emerging words, it is used to signify authority, leadership, command. It’s the gesture of the persuader. Yes, Russians are not typically known for being shy wallflowers.
[Photo by cattu]