YOUNGSTOWN, Ohio (WYTV) – Why does a head nod mean yes and shaking back and forth mean no?
Charles Darwin was interested in finding out, and he sent out a questionnaire to missionaries around the world.
Nodding and head-shaking turned out to be pretty common, but there were some striking exceptions.
For example, certain Australian natives nod yes, but no is holding up the right hand, shake it by turning it half round and back again two or three times.
The Abyssinians said yes was tossing the head and the eyebrows raised for an instant, and “no” was jerking their heads to the right shoulder.
The natives of Borneo raised their eyebrows for “yes” and contracted them for no.
The Inuit — Eskimos — nodded for “yes” and winked for “no.”
The only place where they completely reversed the meaning of our nod and head-shake gestures is Bulgaria. There, a nod means no and a shake means yes.
You probably think we make the thumbs-up gesture because that’s what the Romans used to do when they wanted to spare a fallen gladiator, right?
That’s a myth that was mistranslated down the centuries.
When the Romans were feeling merciful they hid their thumbs in their clenched fists. The sword is in the sheath, but death was thumbs out. The sword is out in a stabbing gesture.
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