Monday, December 15, 2008

A Shoe to Throw

What I enjoy about the stories about the Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush is that they all take care to explain that "Throwing a shoe at someone is considered the worst possible insult in Iraq and is meant to show extreme disrespect and contempt" (Wash. Post) or "Hitting someone with a shoe is considered the supreme insult in Iraq." (NY Times). These explanations should be helpful to readers who imagined that in cultural context throwing the shoes was some kind of compliment ("You are so great that I give you my shoes!").

Really, though, it is interesting that a culture has such expressive gestures. What have we got? We have "not gesturing with all five fingers," as the President delicately put it, and there are even ruder hand gestures, but I can't think of anything as vivid. It seems we have a gesture gap.

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