Stop Sign

It’s post-holiday winter. It just snowed. You’re walking in town and a friend sees you from a distance. They’re real happy, because you’ve missed their calls and texts. They start to run over to you, but WAIT! There’s a thick sheet of ice in front of you, which is sure to put a frozen damper on their day. There’s no time to shout at them and they need a visual to halt immediately.

stop sign

You’ve done it. They’ve stopped dead in their tracks and avoided a slippery step right to the emergency room. They got hit by oncoming traffic, but that’s neither here nor there.

Stop Sign

Indeed, sticking one’s open palm out is the predecessor to the bossiest red octagon around. It’s a quick way to tell somebody to halt, stay at a distance, or even stop talking. Additionally, this gesture can be used to indicate that somebody should wait or hold on.

~Who Hands It~

  • Crossing-guards that forget their signs
  • Police officers directing traffic
  • Musicians trying to emphasize part of a song
  • Fed-up girlfriendsStop2
  • Bouncers

~When to Hand It~

Stopping a child from running in the house.

Saving a friend’s life from slipping on ice.

Sneaking around with more than one person, but hearing a noise.

~Around the World~

In Iraq, this sign does not mean stop, it’s actually a welcoming gesture.

~Hand It Challenge~

  1. Sing this entire song while you hand the Stop Sign

“Talk to the Hand”

The Stop Sign also has a signal relative with the gesture for “talk to the hand.” Like all great things, this gesture originated and (almost certainly) died in the 90s. One would hold our their palm, sassily look away, and say the phrase “talk to the hand cuz the face ain’t listenin.”  Through continued use, the phrase was shortened to “talk to the hand” and one could also Hand It without saying the phrase at all.

~Who Hands It~

  • Crossing-guards getting yelled at by their girlfriends.
  • Police officers getting blamed for traffic.
  • The Terminator

Talk to the Hand

~When to Hand It~

As a response to anything that you don’t want to hear anymore. Such as:

“And you’re fat. And lazy. And you don’t take out the trash. And I fell taking the trash out. Do you understand how bad this bruise hurts? This is all your damn fault.”

“Do you understand me? Are you even listening at all? This is very, very serious Joe I can’t feel my-”

~Around the World~

In Spanish, this gesture is “Habla con la Mano.”

In German, it’s called “Sprechen sie mit der Hand.”

~Hand It Challenge~

  1. If you’re in a situation with a very long-winded talker or annoyingly-selfish person going on and on and on about the life, liberties, and pursuit of happiness of their pet salamander, Hand the “Talk to the Hand” to them and say “Habla con la Mano cuz the face ain’t listening”

Shaka Sign

“Hang loose,” “hang ten sign,” or “surfer sign” are all nicknames for the Shaka Sign.

~What it is~

Clench your middle three fingers, stick your thumb and pinky out like a tea time thumbs up, and shake your hand. It has multiple uses, such as for a greeting, showing feelings of relaxation, or pointing out something really gnarly.

“For the most part, the Shaka is a sign of Aloha, love and appreciation” – Jay DiMartino, Surfing/Bodyboarding Guide.

Simply put, it’s the Hand It version of saying: dude, hey, yes, awesome, come on, or this guyyy.

~How to Hand It~

Shaking a Shaka Sign is a great way to punctuate or accentuate any of these following situations:

  • Reminisce
    “Dude, remember watching Rocket Power. Such an amazing show.”
  • Show appreciation
    “Almost as amazing as your dance moves last night, those were next level.”
  • Apologize
    “Whoops, didn’t realize that was actually a seizure”
  • Coax a friend to hangout
    “I’ll make it up to you. I’m going to the movies, wanna come with?”
  • Promise bodaciousness
    “Okay then be that way. Sandra Burmeister’s having a party a few blocks down, should be pretty kickin. More Keystone than you can even handle. Let’s check it out.”

~When to Hand It~

Always appropriate when referring to surfing, sometimes appropriate when appreciating music from the 90s, and never appropriate when describing suits from the 80s. It’s a friendly gesture, so you’ll Hand It when meeting or leaving a friend, express content, show excitement for an upcoming event, or display appreciation for another person. Also, remember to keep the shaking to under a few seconds to avoid looking like a glitched robot assassin.

Obama Shaka


~How it Started~

There is much more ambiguity to how the gesture started than I originally expected. Like other forms of language, it’s probably near impossible to pinpoint where it started; it may have originated concurrently and independently throughout multiple locations.

Nevertheless, this sign is commonly associated with Hawaii. One of the more interesting stories is that a man named Hamana Kalili lost his middle three fingers in an accident, which gave his hand a distinct and permanent Shaka Sign. He had a job making sure kids didn’t board trains and he would use the wave to indicate that the trains were clear of these nothing-better-to-do children.

Years later, the sign was popularized by a used car salesman named “Lippy” Espinda who used the gesture and “shaka, brah!” as a signoff tag for his commercials. This also happened to mark the last occasion in which a local car commercial popularized anything.

~Around the World~

This sign is common in Brazil with a near-identical meaning.

In Chinese number gestures, the Shaka Sign is used for the number 6.

Face the Shaka forward, and you have yourself the letter Y in American Sign Language (manual alphabet).

In Russia, if you tilt the Shaka Sign and keep it stable, it resembles holding a beer mug and is an invitation to drink.

In Australia and New Zealand, it resembles smoking a pipe and is a way to invite someone to smoke marijuana.

In parts of the Caribbean, it may suggest a request for sex. The thumb points at the hopeful person and the pinky points at the shocked police officer.

(The last three came from Wikipedia without citations, so their validity is suspect)

Shaka~Hand It Challenges~

Use the Shaka next time you’re trying to convince a friend or friends to join you in an activity  First ask them without any gestures. If it doesn’t work, then ask them again while doing the Shaka sign. This will make the proposed event seem like a pretty rad time. If they happen to laugh at you, then just strike up a conversation about the Shaka sign while you slyly force them into your car to go to Sandra’s party.

DUAL WIELD (for true Hand It professionals)
Find a situation to successfully rock the Shaka sign on both hands at the same time.

That’s it for the Shaka Sign. It has been added to the Guide and you are now ready to ~Hand It~

Welcome to Hand It

If you’re far away from a friend and don’t want to shout, Hand It.

If you’re in a business meeting or making an important speech, Hand It.

If you’re having dinner with a loved one and your mouth is full, Hand It.  

Hand It is a comprehensive guide of the gestures used in face-to-face, group, and public interactions. This guide will talk about the gesture, highlight how it’s used and the context surrounding the use, feature gestures from across the globe, and then give you tips and challenges to get you to Hand It.

Hopefully, most of these will be signs you learned during childhood. This is going to serve as a much-needed reminder that those things at the end of your arms are more than just cell phone holders. They’re wonderful ways of transferring information, opinions, moods, and feelings. There is research* to show that the bulk of communication comes from nonverbal cues. Hell, you can have a whole face-to-face conversation with someone without using your voice. It’s pretty nifty that we can save a whole lot of breath by doing just a little motioning with our hands and arms.

Join me in my mission to get the world to Hand It.

*citation pending