Dear Reader,

I never thought reading a field guide could be fun―interesting, not fun―but that was before I came across Field Guide to Gestures: How to Identify and Interpret Virtually Every Gesture Known to Man, a tongue-in-cheek book that in a fun-read kind of way tells you what the “tongue in cheek” gesture really means. Hint: It’s in the book’s “Offensive and Profane” section, and the gesture starts with F. “Where might you witness this gesture?” you ask. “Places where adolescents gather, such as malls, school hallways, and diners, are common areas to see this gesture in use amidst much giggling. College campuses may be a venue for the performance of this gesture, since it is here where the battle for maturity is fought and often not quite won.”

And don’t worry if you’re not quite sure how to perform this or any other gesture; the book includes helpful how-to illustrations. Note: I suggest you don’t perform these profane gestures while you lunch in a booth at Subway on the corner of 120th and Main in Broomfield, Colorado. Because you can imagine how horrifying it’d be to discover you’ve been practicing The Fig, Chin Flick, The Finger, or… or The Crotch Grab,” while sitting on the wrong side of the kitchen’s one-way window.


Field Guide to Gestures is a great resource for you writers who chronically tell how a character feels, responds to requests, what his/her attitudes or intentions are, rather than show these things. You can employ the Hold Nose gesture, The Raspberry, Butt Pat, the Let’s Drink gesture, and so on. And I think you’d agree it’s more interesting to read “Bethel fluttered her eyelashes when Steve asked her if he could buy her a drink then thumbed her nose at Cecile twiddling her thumbs at the table next to her,” than “Bethel was attracted to Steve, so when he offered her a drink she gloated to Cecile.” I say a gesture is worth a string of words.

From this book you also learn which commonly used gestures may mean different things in different countries. For example,  sometimes no means yes.  “In Bulgaria, parts of Greece, Turkey, Iran, and the former Yugoslavia, if you shake your head back and forth, it will be taken as ‘yes,’ while up and down means ‘no.’” (I didn’t know this. Did you?) You might use misread gestures to concoct comedic scenes, if not fantastic farces or tragedies, or stir up fights between strangers and family members. Or how about to send a grieving father to walk through a grand prix car race because a shopkeeper waves him away, but in the shopkeeper’s country his wave was to tell the father to “come here.”

I plan to use entries in Field Guide to Gestures as free-write prompts. They’re guaranteed to instigate writing antics and god-awful gestures. I promise I will share them with you―provided they’re not too profane.


2 Responses to “FIELD GUIDE TO GESTURES: A Writer’s Resource”

  1. 1 Debra Shirley 01/15/2009 at 4:08 am

    Faye, You make me guffaw! Love this post!

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January 2009
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Photo Credits: Header - Barbara McNichol, Author - Bernadette Garcia

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