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Hand rubbing

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Title: Hand rubbing  
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Subject: Hand gestures, Mano (gesture), Allergic salute, Akanbe, Adab (gesture)
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Hand rubbing

Hand rubbing.

Hand rubbing is a gesture that conveys in many cultures either that one has a feeling of excited expectation, or that one is simply cold.[1] In Ekman and Friesen's 1969 classification system for gestures, hand-rubbing as an indication of coldness is an emblem intentional gesture that could equally well be verbalized.[2]


  • Cultural differences 1
  • References 2
  • Further reading 3
  • See also 4

Cultural differences

The gesture is widespread around the globe, although it is possibly more common in cultures of countries with colder climates than those with hotter climates. In South America, the gesture is used to imply that two women are lesbians.[3]

Hand rubbing involves rubbing the palms of one's hands together. As a gesture of expectation, the rate at which one rubs the palms together is significant. A fast pace indicates expectation of something good for onesself. But a slow pace indicates expectation of something bad for someone else. Context also affects the meaning of the gesture. In context, the meaning can vary from an indicator of internal (anticipatory) tension to meaning "Oh good!".[4][5]

The length of the gesture is also important. Rubbing one's hands together and then saying to another person (for example) that one expects to make money conveys to that person that they should be excited as well. Whereas rubbing one's hands together while saying the same thing conveys overeagerness, and possibly the intention to deceive.[6][7]

In drama, rubbing hands can signify various things, such as a miser rubbing his palms together over money, Lady Macbeth washing the blood off her hands, a villain having just done a wicked deed, or a person simply anticipating a journey, a good meal, or meeting with a boyfriend/girlfriend.[8]

A psychological study of revenge by Robert Baron, a psychologist in the school of management at Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute, found that some people who had waited years to get even with others, plotting and waiting for the opportunity to "torpedo their enemy's career", would rub their hands together at the memory, in the fashion of cartoon villains.[9][10]

John Bulwer calls Lady Macbeth's hand rubbing gesture Gestus #XI: Innocentiam Ostendo (Latin for "I display innocence"). He states that "[t]o imitate the posture of washing the hands by rubbing the back of one in the hollow of the other with a kind of detersive motion is a gesture sometimes used by those who would professe their innocency and declare they have no Hand in that foule business, not so much as by their manuall assent […] for the Hands naturally imply, as it were in Hieroglyphique, mens acts and operations; and that cleansing motion denotes the cleannesse of their actions.". This gesture is also associated with Pilate and with Shakespeare's other plays Julius Caesar (where Brutus' hand-washing gesture is turned from a profession of innocency into a signal of guilt) and Richard II.[11][12][13]


  1. ^ Adrian Furnham (1999). Body Language at Work. CIPD Publishing. p. 22.  
  2. ^ John Hayes (2002). Interpersonal Skills at Work. Routledge. p. 82.  
  3. ^ Nancy Armstrong and Melissa Wagner (2003). "Hand Rub". Field Guide to Gestures. Quirk Books. pp. 158–159.  
  4. ^ V.M. Sharma (2004). "Hand-and-Arm Gestures". Body Language. Pustak Mahal. p. 37.  
  5. ^ M. H. Ford (2004). "Hand Jive". Personal Power. iUniverse. p. 113.  
  6. ^ Steve Roberts (2007). "animation of acting—body language". Character Animation. Elsevier. p. 192.  
  7. ^ Elizabeth Kuhnke (2007). "The hand rub: Good for you or good for me?". Body Language for Dummies. For Dummies. p. 146.  
  8. ^ Michael Theodorou (1989). Ideas That Work in Drama. Nelson Thornes. p. 15.  
  9. ^ Benedict Cary (2004-07-27). "Payback time why revenge tastes so sweet".  
  10. ^ Stephen Denning (2005). "Stories that Tame the Grapevine". In Georg Schreyögg, Jean Caussanel, and Jochen Koch. Knowledge Management and Narratives. Erich Schmidt Verlag GmbH. p. 95.  
  11. ^ Joseph R. Roach (1985). The Player's Passion. University of Delaware Press. pp. 37–38.  
  12. ^ Michael Neill (2003). "'Amphitheaters in the Body': Playing with Hands on the Shakespearian Stage". In Stanley Wells. Shakespeare Survey. Cambridge University Press. pp. 35–36.  
  13. ^ Katherine Rowe (2003). "Minds in Company: Shakespearian Tragic Emotions". In Richard Dutton and Jean Elizabeth Howard. A Companion to Shakespeare's Works. Blackwell Publishing. pp. 56–57.  

Further reading

  • Larry Engler and Carol Fijian (1996). "Rubbing Hands". Making Puppets Come Alive. Courier Dover Publications. p. 42.  

See also

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