I have a doctor I really like. He knows his meds, has a good bedside manner, and has a few moments to spare in an appointment to discuss our common interest: baseball. At the end of our time, we shake hands. I think I get as much help from that sincere gesture as I do from any pill.
Somewhere along the line, I was told the “handshake” began as a custom between Medieval knights who wanted to talk, not joust. They took off gloves from their right hands, indicating they meant no threat, and had a chat about somebody nicknamed “Greensleeves.” True?
However, among a number of other possibilities, records indicate Greeks in the 5th century B.C. shook hands possibly in a peaceful gesture. Art work shows no weapons in their hands. Today, you can shake a person’s hand to indicate meeting, greeting, parting, or congratulating. It’s a sign of being aware of social graces.
At the end of every NHL championship, players from both teams line up opposite each other and shake hands while passing in line at mid-ice. It happens even if it requires peacefully grasping the hand of someone who tried to alter your extensive dental work 10 minutes earlier.
In English speaking countries, men are more likely to shake hands than women. But if you are in Switzerland, it’s OK to shake a women’s hand. Austrians include kids, but in Russia, it can be complicated. When there, greet a lady by kissing her hand, don’t shake it. Make sure men don’t shake Mrs. Putin’s hand or kiss Vladimir’s. (Oops. They divorced in April, 2014. Crisis averted.)
In some countries, a kiss on each cheek is added to a handshake. Afterward, the palm may be placed on the heart. In China, a weak handshake is preferred, and hands are clasped for a period of time after the shake. In Japan? Weak shake is the choice. In India, a handshake is replaced by the Namaste gesture (palms together, fingers pointed upward) with a slight bow —although in business and formal settings, handshakes are desired. But in Norway, a firm handshake is the choice.
Got all that? A quiz will follow. Possession of your passport hangs in the balance.
With politicians, a “handhug” —clasped hands are covered with the free hand— is meant to be friendly and sincere. (Who doesn’t believe that?) Also, shaking hands in public may be continued while turning to cameras for a photograph. Big smile. In parts of Africa, the hands remain held indicating a conversation is continuing between two people. Don’t interrupt. Scouts will shake with their left hand as a gesture of trust —as did the founder of the movement, Lord Baden-Powell of Gilwell. (I’m not making that name up.)
And then there are handshaking records. Teddy Roosevelt shook 8,510 hands at a reception in 1907. An Atlantic City Mayor, in 1977, broke that record with 11,000+ handshakes in a day. In 2008, on Memorial Day, two friends in Iowa set a record for longest handshake at 9 hours and 30 minutes. The record was broken in California (where else?) with a 15 hour, 15 minute, 15 second shake. It was broken again —twice. The latest record (it is assumed) stands at 33 hours and 3 minutes.
Of course, there are the fist bump and high five and secret handshakes in secret societies or among family members and among professional athletes for doing something significant with/to a ball. And on and on it goes.
For myself, I like my 2 brothers-in-law, although I give John a smile and good eye contact, in addition to a handshake of exactly the right pressure. Best guy I’ve ever known. I know I’m getting my point across, and, besides, David is too hyperactive to linger, anyway.
Personally, I shake hands to say hello or good-bye to men, and kiss my sisters-in-law on one cheek. A pat on the back or shoulder is always appreciated. Then, there’s always Churchill’s V for Victory salute to almost everyone for almost all occasions. And do we count, in polite company, the single finger salute so popular on American highways as a form of driving approval? Of course we do.
And to end on an honest note: after reading 8 articles online, and seeing more available, I must say enough is enough. Add your own hand flourish. This ain’t no dissertation.