The Mudcat Café TM
Thread #161044   Message #3823799
Posted By: Thompson
01-Dec-16 - 01:39 AM
Thread Name: Folklore: Automatic Gestures
Subject: RE: Folklore: Automatic Gestures
I make that hand-on-heart gesture for shock. I've often seen it (in women I think, but maybe in men too) in Ireland.
The hand-over-mouth gesture is an interesting one. In the photo of Obama and all his senior staff watching the murder of Osama bin Laden live on video, Hillary Clinton is unconsciously covering her mouth in that way, and it made me respect her more than the others.
For years I didn't understand this run of dialogue in Romeo and Juliet - I knew it was the start of a row, but all that thumb-biting?

SAMPSON
Nay, as they dare. I will bite my thumb at them; which is a disgrace to them, if they bear it.
Enter ABRAHAM and BALTHASAR
ABRAHAM
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
SAMPSON
I do bite my thumb, sir.
ABRAHAM
Do you bite your thumb at us, sir?
SAMPSON
[Aside to GREGORY] Is the law of our side, if I say ay?
GREGORY
No.
SAMPSON
No, sir, I do not bite my thumb at you, sir, but I bite my thumb, sir.
GREGORY
Do you quarrel, sir?
ABRAHAM
Quarrel sir! no, sir.
SAMPSON
If you do, sir, I am for you: I serve as good a man as you.

Then I saw a Cockney do it in a film - now I understood it fully! The gesture was to put the thumb in the mouth, nail facing in, and whip it out of the biting teeth, glaring with hate as he did it. It was incredibly offensive!