Italian Gestures

New York Times article details the origins and importance of Italian Gestures.

Far more than quaint folklore, gestures have a rich history. One theory holds that Italians developed them as an alternative form of communication during the centuries when they lived under foreign occupation — by Austria, France and Spain in the 14th through 19th centuries — as a way of communicating without their overlords understanding.

Another theory, advanced by Adam Kendon, the editor in chief of the journal Gesture, is that in overpopulated cities like Naples, gesturing became a way of competing, of marking one’s territory in a crowded arena. “To get attention, people gestured and used their whole bodies,” Ms. Poggi said, explaining the theory.

Andrea De Jorio, a 19th-century priest and archaeologist, discovered comparisons between the gestures used by the figures painted on ancient Greek vases found in the Naples area and the gestures used by his Neapolitan contemporaries.

Over the centuries, languages have evolved, but gestures remain. “Gestures change less than words,” Ms. Poggi said.


The Next Iteration

The Bandit’s been in the workshop cutting, sawing, and sanding down a new version of Hand It!. WordPress and Tumblr are cool platforms which have allowed a steady stream of posts to all kinds of readers, but I’m interested in getting a website going that is driven by user-content to truly make this the “Wikipedia of Hand Gestures.”

For those interested, here is a prototype of Hand It’s evolution. It’s currently hosted on my college’s servers, so it may be removed at a later date in order to free up space for new students. The homepage would feature one submitted gesture for a period of 2/3 days before moving to the archives. Submitting will be done by email and checking new content would be as simple as logging into the homepage. All submissions will be considered and curated by your beloved Bandit, in order to keep it as clean and fun as possible.

From a design standpoint, I wanted to highlight the content, so I opted for a minimal aesthetic. was a big inspiration. The world and web are cluttered enough already, checking Hand It! should be as calmingly humorous as a monk tickling your belly.

Any and all feedback is more than appreciated, so please comment, message me, or email with anything you have to say, spit, or yell.


Due to my busy schedule and all-consuming job search, Hand It! will be on hiatus for an indeterminate period of time.

I am also currently developing the next iteration of this project, which will not live on WordPress and will be centered around user-submissions to get this project closer to becoming a true “Wikipedia for hand gestures.”

In the meantime, feel free to email handitbandit[at] with any ideas, submissions, questions or concerns.

Farewell and keep gesturing!



Being at a loss of words is like reaching into one’s pocket at a cash register only to feel deep, vacant cloth. It can blindside you. Shake you up from top to bottom until you start foaming over.

Oftentimes people will say they can’t properly “articulate” themselves in these moments. When you can’t articulate, you need to gesticulate. Let your hand gestures do what they do best by expressing the thoughts and feelings that your vocal chords cannot.

Guitarists let their fingers do the talking. Painters lash their hands in all directions. We all fill the wordless void with some form of expression, which often involves hand gestures.


This is frustration, disappointment, and hopelessness; tensed fingers try to squeeze these feelings out of the mind.

Baseball Gesture Week – Catchers

Baseball is back. America’s pastime is chock-full of hand gestures. Hand It! is celebrating the opening week of the 2013 season by exploring instances of gesture use in this great sport.

Catcher Signals

Pitchers may control the tempo of a baseball game, but the man behind the plate chooses the notes. Catchers are the ones who signal what pitches should be thrown to batters. Catchers employ a few different systems for calling pitches, one of which is the use of their fingers. For example, showing one finger could mean “throw a fastball.”


Two fingers may demand a curveball.


Pitchers can shake their heads to silently say, “no, I don’t want to pitch that.

To which the catchers will reply with another option. This trio is looking for a slider.



(Shaking off too many pitches will make the catcher sad and irritable and ruin any chance the pitcher has of getting protection if an angry batter charges the mound.)

The Not-So Invisible Hands of the Market

photo source: nytimes

Would you want the life of millions of dollars hanging in the balance of your finger dexterity? These folks do. Financial professionals in a stock or futures exchange gather at a part of the trading floor called a pit. They use Open Outcry, a combination of shouting and hand gestures, to relay information about buying and selling orders. This hand gesture system, Hand Signaling also known as Arb (short for arbitrage) was developed from the need to quickly exchange information across far distances and loud surroundings. Seconds, even microseconds, can make a huge difference during an open outcry, so hand signalling proved to be a great asset.

There are symbols for numbers, names of banks, months, and types of transaction. The signals sometimes seem strange but employ a fairly sensible logic, for example Goldman Sachs is represented by someone pretending to touch his or her thumb to an imaginary “gold ring” on his or her ring finger. Let’s take a look at two of the most important ones: buying and selling:



Looks like the signaler is pulling and wants to “get” something. Also looks like he or she is copping a feel on themselves.



Looks like the signaler is trying to push or get rid of something as well as trying to cop a feel on someone else.

Dying Art

As you may have guessed, this form of communication is dying. The world is moving towards all-electronic everything and stock exchanges are no exception. Electronic trading systems offer advantages such as speed, efficiency, and accuracy, but Ryan Carlson, founder of, is on a mission to preserve the hand signal language in all of its glory. As cities are beginning to phase this language out, Ryan is documenting all the different dialects to preserve a piece of hand gesture history.