Palm Pilot

Attorney General Alberto Gonzales has finally done something important to advance the cause of justice. He has resigned. (NY Times, 8-28-07)

Today’s Science Times has a nice bit of research on non-verbal communication, a linguistic bridge of sorts between the human world and our relatives. Palms up, the universal sign for a handout, is apparently easily understood by chimpanzees, and we’ve simply added a layer of complexity, the shrug, to say “sorry, dude.” The inverse of palms up, a strong palms down, is therefore used to imply authority, like public speakers and those in charge use to shush the crowd and display their control.

Exhibit A:

Alberto Gonzalez: “It’s OK, I’ve got this under control.”

The downturned palms are meant to reassure the Senate committee that things are all right, things are OK. You are being told. There is no ask for help here.

Exhibit B:

Alberto Gonzalez: “Uhhh…sorry?”

Still a bit dismissive, but there is a slight shrug, a palm showing up and out. Not quite the asking for a handout palms up, but I wouldn’t be surprised if we find one of those in the coming days.

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