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Punch Drunk

Jack's Guide to Richmond Hand Gestures

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The New York Times published an article last week about Italians' ingrained use of theatrical nonverbal communication — mostly over-the-top hand gestures.

As Rachel Donadio wrote: "From the classic fingers pinched against the thumb that can mean 'Whaddya want from me?' or 'I wasn't born yesterday' to a hand circled slowly, indicating 'Whatever' or 'That'll be the day,' there is an eloquence to the Italian hand gesture. In a culture that prizes oratory, nothing deflates airy rhetoric more swiftly."

Whether discussing upon which open-air piazza to take their afternoon entire pack of smokes and bottle of Prosecco break, comparing former Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi's many and various fidanzate or bitterly complaining to the soccer referee about some nonexistent, flop-inducing foul on the pitch, the Italians turn gesticulation into an art form. It's been part of their world since birth and its beauty cannot be undervalued.

Americans, on the other hand, with our clunky language and brusque tactics, tend to look like apes when we're communicating.

"To Italians, gesturing comes naturally," Donadio writes. "'You mean Americans don't gesture? They talk like this?' asked Pasquale Guarrancino, a Roman taxi driver, freezing up and placing his arms flat against his sides. He had been sitting in his cab talking with a friend outside, each moving his hands in elaborate choreography.'"

As someone who gets paid to speak on the radio, which in itself is nothing short of a miracolo (and stupid, dumb luck), I've found myself using my hands a lot more and punctuating my words with theatrics when trying to make whatever ill-informed point I'm stuck on that day.

With that in mind, I've devised some new, Americanized and Richmond-centric hand gestures to help me communicate with the artless masses. Feel free to use these at your own risk.

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