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    Ideas | François Caradec and Philippe Cousin

    Lend me your ear: A compilation of gestures from around the world

    Humans have a mere two ears. But add a hand, and there’s no end to the subtle meanings we can communicate. In compiling his “Dictionary of Gestures: Expressive Comportments and Movements in Use Around the World,” the French writer François Caradec looked around the world for distinct ideas that people use their bodies to communicate. Caradec died in 2008, but a new English-language edition of his reference work, with illustrations by Philippe Cousin, is out this month from MIT Press. Here are a few examples from his list of gestures involving the ear.


    Philippe Cousin

    Scratching one’s ear with the opposite hand passed behind one’s head

    North Africa: A contortion signifying that a situation is uselessly complicated

    Philippe Cousin

    Touching one’s ear with the fingers of the hand clustered together


    Mediterranean world, England: “Be careful, someone’s listening”

    Philippe Cousin

    Slight taps to the earlobe with the index finger

    Russia: Antipathy

    Philippe Cousin

    Tapping one’s ear with a finger

    Turkey: A gesture that brings luck, similar to “knock on wood”

    Philippe Cousin

    Holding and gently wiggling the earlobe

    Portugal, Brazil: Pleasure; an exquisite flavor. “It’s delicious.”

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