Behavior: Talking with Hands

In the English-speaking world, to talk with one's hands is a sign of poor breeding. For Arabs of all social levels, however, gestures are an indispensable part of any conversation. "To tie an Arab's hands while he is speaking," writes Robert A. Barakat in the Journal of Popular Culture, "is tantamount to tying his tongue." To prove his point,

Barakat, an anthropologist at Newfoundland's Memorial University, recently gathered a dictionary of gestures from throughout the Arab world and was able to give specific definitions to no fewer than 247.

Although the majority of the gestures are obscene, many serve to convey respectable and...

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