Opinion | Hamilton: Stay calm by using ‘jazz hands?’
Satire. During World War II, the Free World stood in awe of how the British stood up to the Nazi “blitz” of their cities and how they braved the attacks by Hitler’s V-1 cruise missiles and Hitler’s V-2 rockets. The Brits proclaimed their “bulldog courage” with the slogan: “Stay calm and carry on.” In recent years, however, it looks like the British Bulldog has given way to the French Poodle.
In 2015, The United Kingdom feminist conference banned hand clapping at its events in order to “avoid triggering of anxiety in participants.” Also in 2015, the National Union of Students (NSU) declared the clapping noise was triggering anxiety. Just how this happens remains a mystery, although a highly trained psychologist such as Dr. Christine Blasey Ford could probably explain how this mental phenomenon takes place.
Most recently, the Student Union at Manchester University (M.U.) banned the clapping of hands at university events. Instead, audiences are mandated at M.U. to signal their approval of a speaker or a stage performance by the use of “jazz hands.”
To do “jazz hands,” you face both hands, fingers splayed, toward the speaker or performer of whom you approve. You then shake your hands like the leaves of a Quaking Aspen. Now, to those of you who know something about the ethnic origins of jazz or saw videos of Al Jolson wearing white gloves and blackface in The Jazz Singer (1927), all this might smack of racism.
Ergo: to avoid jazz hands’ suggestion of racism, we turn to the Royal Navy for some alternative ways of expressing one’s approval without making noise: Equip each student with a small flagstaff. When they really like what is being said or acted out, they hoist the Beta and the Zulu signal flags. Beta Zulu is the international signal for “well done!” Or, each student could be equipped with a blinker light. Of course, the students and the performers would have to understand Morse Code for the blinks to be meaningful. But then, learning Morse Code might be difficult and cause anxiety in and of itself.
So, casting fears of racism aside, the students could use jazz hands to express “degrees” of approval. For example, outstanding performance could merit both hands being rotated clockwise. A less than optimum performance could be indicated by rotating both hands counter-clockwise. When the students are undecided, one hand could rotate clockwise and the other hand counter-clockwise. But, for students lacking hand-eye coordination, that might trigger performance anxiety. So, forget that one.
But what if the students disapprove of what they are hearing and seeing? Or, what if readers disapprove of this jazz hands idea? Is there a way of expressing one’s disapproval? Fortunately, one comes to mind.
In fact, there is an international sign of disapproval that does not require the use of two hands, although two hands can be used for maximum effect. Moreover, that signal does not even require the use of all the fingers on one hand.
Unfortunately, that signal is banned in some countries. In Germany, for example, you can be the subject of a traffic fine. But when should one use that signal? We suggest. You decide.
Nationally syndicated columnist, William Hamilton, is a laureate of the Oklahoma Journalism Hall of Fame, the Nebraska Aviation Hall of Fame, the Colorado Aviation Hall of Fame, and the Oklahoma University Army ROTC Wall of Fame. Hamilton is the author of “The Wit and Wisdom of William Hamilton: the Sage of Sheepdog Hill.”
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