Saturday, September 29, 2012


Meaning: relating to chironomy, which is the art or science of what to do with your hands; John Bulwer also applied it to the Art of Manual Rhetoricke, which we much more boringly call sign language.

Usefulness: 1 (Can be applied to all those people who are happy to tell you what to do with your hands while presenting or, Google suggests, kissing. Also conductors - though it seems to have some kind of technical application to choirs - and Italians, which is how Rabelais uses it. Is a stereotype any more true because it is 400 years old?)

Logofascination: 2 (ah, humanity: concerns of chironomy bind actors, presenters, politicians, rhetoricians and, apparently, lovers, across time, space and YouTube.)

In the wild: some of the what-to-do-with-your-hands-while-kissing links get pretty wild, although I don't think anyone uses the term chironomy.

Degrees: 1 (this is a line-ball; Rabelais says "gesticulations Italicques", but Urquhart takes the pre-existing chironomy and comes up with chironomatic, possibly just so he could also use jectigation* - synonyms sound better in sets of three)

Connections: n/a

Used in: G&P, Third Book, XIX: How Pantagruel praiseth the counsel of dumb men. Panurge argues that they can't consult a dumb (mute) woman, because women just want sex and will therefore interpret all gestures accordingly. As evidence, he tells the tale of a
"young Roman gentleman encountering by chance, at the foot of Mount Celion, with a beautiful Latin lady named Verona, who from her very cradle upwards had always been both deaf and dumb, very civilly asked her, not without a chironomatic Italianizing of his demand, with various jectigation* of his fingers and other gesticulations as yet customary amongst the speakers of that country, what senators in her descent from the top of the hill she had met with going up thither." 
Apparently stereotypes of Italian men are equally ancient - she misunderstands his question and using signs, suggests "what herself had a great mind to, even that which a young man doth naturally desire of a woman." We are not told whether the young Roman ever had his question answered.

*Jectigation will get its own post shortly. Update: Jectigation.

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