For some time now and for some unknown strange reason, I have noticed that more and more people are using the “fist bump” as a sign of a greeting. This action not only applies for your “run of the mill” buddies, but now for new acquaintances as well. It seems that the trustworthy handshake is more and more a sign of a century past.
At first, I thought it was either a generational caveat, an ethnic signature that defined you were “in” the group or simply a “germaphobe.” I was wrong; everybody is doing it and it seems to want me to bump fists for every single reason. My pointy knuckles are getting a workout.
Although the origin of the “fist bump” is not clear, it’s no doubt a hand gesture normally associated with competition, sporting events, Hooters’ chicken wings and Bud Lite commercials. That has been my stereotypical interpretation.
But digging a little deeper, the action which has 20th century roots is originally associated with the traditional “glove bump.” That action that kicks off the modern gladiator show we like to call Boxing. In other words, its origins are more in line with the “Let’s get ready to rumble” state of mind.
On the other hand, the traditional handshake has existed in some form or another since the 4th century. No NBA back then, just invading hordes and gladiators.
One popular theory is that the gesture began as a way of conveying peaceful intentions. By extending their empty right hands, strangers could show that they were not holding weapons and bore no ill will toward one another. I guess you could say it was to diffuse any “ready to rumble” premise.
Some even suggest that the up-and-down motion of the handshake was supposed to dislodge any knives or daggers that might be hidden up a sleeve. A good idea that still makes sense as much today as it did in ancient Greece.
Yet another explanation is that the handshake was a symbol of good faith when making an oath or promise. When they clasped hands, people showed that their word was a sacred bond. In my opinion, although it may have worked for the Greeks, in today’s world I suggest you get it signed, notarized and in writing; with multiple copies preferably.
So, if the “fist bump” is here to stay what are we to do with all those handshaking tips, do’s and don’ts that for many decades generated a profit for an etiquette industry and today are being replaced by a simple “knuckle clash?” No easy answer here, I guess we will look forward to the new do’s and don’ts of “fist bumping.” I wonder, how will that work while on a job interview?
As for me, I prefer the classic handshake; it is simply more personal and intrusive. The touching of palms and clutching of hands is a billboard to our souls and a compass to our instincts. How many times have you validated your instincts about a person’s trust, commitment and intentions by a mere shaking of the hands? For me, too many to count.
In the end, we will do what we need to do to be assimilated into any contemporary tribe. But beware, if you ever approach me, get ready for a strong, firm and robust handshake, the kind that says I have peaceful intentions and carry no daggers in my sleeve.