Elementary, my dear… #WriterWednesday

sherlock“By a man’s finger nails, by his coat-sleeve, by his boot, by his trouser knees, by the callosities of his forefinger and thumb, by his expression, by his shirt cuffs — by each of these things a man’s calling is plainly revealed. That all united should fail to enlighten the competent enquirer in any case is almost inconceivable.”
~Sherlock Holmes A Study in Scarlet

🙂 I love Sherlock in all his iterations.

Our lives are filled with symbols. Literally filled. Take the simple nod and the shaking of the head. Early on we recognize these gestures  as meaning yes and no. Sociologists (who study human social behavior) call these simple body gestures symbols of communication. The interesting thing about those two ancient symbols for yes and no is they’re nearly world-wide in understanding. That shows you how truly old they really are. Of course I understand them as a human. Even toddlers know the gestures for yes and no. Beyond my basic human comprehension, it’s the writer in me that sees potential in the fact non-verbal cues happen consciously and subconsciously. Just knowing that puts my mind in Sherlock mode. As Sherlock Holmes would say, “Give me details!” The literary world is full of body language — from pacing and nervous twitches to head-scratching perplexity and come hither glances. I could go on. So I will!

Body language from head to collarfacepalm
I started this post with the idea of doing a head to toe run-down of gesture symbology. But after composing all of the following, I saw dozens more in my mind. I’ve decided to list just those head to collar cues today. I’ll post more in the days to come.

Sherlock would deduce broader information in the following body language. What do you see?

  • Head tilt – interest
  • Prolonged tilt – boredom or impatience
  • Head in hand – boredom or focus
  • Head in two hands – overwhelmed or listening with deeper focus
  • Head bowed, eyes raised – coy invitation
  • Head clasping, elbows high – wondering what to do next
  • Hair twirling or fiddling – insecurity, lack of confidence, sexual overtones
  • Hair tossing – look at me!
  • Hair pulling – frustration
  • Brow furrowing – a moment of confusion or deep thought
  • Brow raising – astonishment
  • Brow flick – acknowledgment or greeting
  • Forehead slap – sudden understanding
  • Face palm – exasperation
  • Face to face – sincerity or aggression
  • Knitted brows – anxiety
  • One brow raised – doubt
  • Fingertip to the temple – contemplation
  • Blinking – disbelief or astonishment
  • Dilated pupils – desire
  • Narrowing eyes – doubt or suspicion
  • Rubbing the eyes – doubt
  • Wide eyes – surprise
  • Eye rolling – exasperation
  • Eye crossing – fed up
  • Side eye – wary
  • Long eye closing – stop what you’re saying
  • Wincing – embarrassment or revulsion
  • Blank stare – unable to follow the thought
  • Looking down – embarrassment
  • Looking away – discomfort
  • Eye to eye – sincerity
  • Doe eyes – desire
  • Wink – share a secret
  • Eye batting – you want me don’t you?
  • Fluttering blink – nervous or aroused
  • Prolonged eye contact – sexual attraction
  • Head to toe perusal – overtly sexual – I like what I see
  • Rubbing the point between the eyes – weary or negative evaluation
  • Eyebrow fiddling – contemplating
  • Ear folding or tugging – Indecision
  • Nose wrinkling – something distasteful
  • Pinching the nose – distasteful as in that stinks
  • Rubbing the nose – you don’t like it
  • flared nostrils – excitement: positive or negative
  • Sharp sniff – displeasure
  • Finger to the side of the nose – keep the secret
  • Hand to cheek – evaluation
  • Inflating cheeks on a breath – buying time to decide
  • Lip licking – enjoyment
  • Lip worrying (biting) – anxiety
  • Finger to lip – enjoyable thoughts
  • Thrusting lip – a pout
  • Pursed lips – contemplative or annoyed
  • Finger to lip tapping – thinking and deciding
  • Tight lips – annoyance
  • Lip twitch – suppressed humor
  • Smile – happy
  • Frown – disturbed
  • Tongue poking – deep concentration
  • Sticking out the tongue – cheeky petulance
  • Running a tongue over the lips – potential enjoyment or I want you
  • Clenched teeth – anger
  • Baring teeth – aggression
  • Teeth tapping together – thought in process
  • Teeth tapping with fingernail – boredom
  • Yawn – tired or bored
  • Clenching jaw or jaw tic – suppressed anger
  • Jaw drop – stunned
  • Biting inside of cheek – holding back
  • Grimace – regret
  • Scowl – deep negativity
  • Stroking chin – thinking or making a decision
  • Thrusting chin – obstinate
  • A neck scratch in conversation – lying
  • Massaging the neck – working a problem or a show of attraction
  • Pulling collar – I’ve been found out

Holy cow. And that just involves the head! There are so many ways to silently communicate, I’m sure I’ve missed some. Other nonverbal gestures involving hands and body stances say even more. That these symbols of nonverbal communication have universal understanding proves just how ancient they are. Perhaps they trace back to a time when the earliest humans didn’t use words. 

I say universal because this communication is recognized all over the world. That said, there are places in the world where cultures just do them a little differently. For example: your A-Ok or thumbs-up hand gesture would be taken as an insult akin to flashing your middle finger. Oddly, there are also cultures where your nod means no. In Korea, you must be careful how you smile. As ancient as they are, I wonder how these non-verbal communication anomalies came to be.

Intentional gestures~




Tomorrow: More


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About ~RoseAnderson

Rose Anderson is an award-winning author and dilettante who loves great conversation and delights in discovering interesting things to weave into stories. Rose also writes under the pen name Madeline Archer.
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