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So much can be said with a hand gesture. Here are the stories behind gestures you might use every day, and some you might not. The Vulcan Salute We all know it, even if we can’t all do it. The Vulcan Salute, made famous by Leonard Nimoy as Mr. Spock on the original Star Trek, has become a cultural icon recognized even by those who have never been to a sci-fi convention. And while the gesture is meant to be from another planet, its inspiration is anything but alien. It’s made by splitting the hand down the middle—holding the index and middle fingers together, the ring and pinky fingers together—and then the thumb pressed firmly against the side of the hand. Nimoy had no problem doing the salute, but not all Trek actors have been so lucky.

William Shatner had to have his fingers tied together with fishing line whenever Captain Kirk needed to use the sign. Even the latest pointy-eared Vulcan, actor Zachary Quinto, who played a younger Mr. Spock in the recent blockbuster film, had to have his fingers stuck together with the skin-safe superglue used by hospitals as a replacement for traditional stitches. The Shaka Sign Folding your three middle fingers down while holding out your thumb and pinky, then twisting your hand around, is a strange gesture to say the least. But if you visit Hawaii, you’re likely to see it a lot. The oldest origin story goes back to the days when Spanish sailors first landed on the Hawaiian Islands. Unable to speak the native tongue, but trying to be friendly, the Spaniards offered to share a drink by mimicking a bottle with their hand with the gesture and tilting back their head. This became such a common greeting that the natives simply believed that’s how the Spanish said hello, so they started using the sign whenever the two groups encountered one another. Another theory, from the mid-20th Century, claims the sign was inspired by the wave of a beloved local named Hamana Kalili, who’d lost the middle fingers on one hand.

There are multiple theories as to how he lost his fingers: there was a shark attack, they were blown off while using dynamite to catch fish, or perhaps the digits were lost in an accident while working on a sugar plantation. But no one knows for sure anymore. As if the origin of the gesture isn’t mysterious enough, the word Shaka isn’t even Hawaiian. However, most people agree the name goes back to a local used car salesman, Lippy Espinda, who would throw up the sign at the end of popular TV commercials during the 1960s and 70s, and say, “Shacka, brah! During his Inauguration Parade, Barack Obama threw the Shaka Sign to greet Honolulu’s Punahou School marching band. The Corna Hand gestures can have multiple meanings. If you’re in Italy or Spain and you flash this sign towards a man, you might get beaten up. In this culture, the symbol represents the horns of one of nature’s most virile animals, the bull.

The bull in this case is usually meant to symbolize the guy sleeping with the man’s wife behind his back. The sign can also be interpreted with the cuckold as the bull, who has been symbolically castrated by his wife. Either way it’s bound to make him see red. However, turn your palm down and point the extended fingers at someone who doesn’t like you, and you’re simply guarding yourself from the Evil Eye. In ancient times, bulls were often seen as protective deities, so turning the bull’s horns against an enemy was a way of keeping the curse at bay. Of course the corna is also used by fans of the University of Texas, where they call it the “Hook ‘Em Horns. Being a Texas native former Governor of Texas, though not a UT alumni, President George W.

Bush and his family were known for flashing the Hook ‘Em Horns during appearances in the Lone Star State. However, it was Ronnie James Dio, lead singer for Black Sabbath in the late-1970s, that really made the sign take hold in the genre. But if you were in school before World War II, you probably used an entirely different gesture to address the flag—the Bellamy Salute. The editor of a children’s publication called The Youth’s Companion created the unofficial salute in 1892 shortly after the Pledge was written, and named it after the author, Francis Bellamy. However, as the years went by, parts of the Bellamy Salute fell out of use, while others evolved. First, the military salute was abandoned, leaving only the straight arm presentation of the flag. But then the palm went from facing up, to sideways, and by the 1940s, it faced down. This last version became a problem as America entered World War II, because it so closely resembled the stiff-armed salute of dictators Mussolini and Hitler.

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