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Culture —– Hand Gestures Part III – The “Someone’s in Trouble” Gesture

by Brandi

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June 15th, 2009

Finally, the last hand gesture in our series. This is probably my favorite gesture of all the Latin American hand gestures. Being an American and not from Latin America, it took me some time to perfect it, but it’s fun and very expressive. As you can tell by the title, I like to call this gesture the “Someone’s in Trouble” gesture, however, it can also be used when you are in a hurry. Click here to learn Spanish.

To form this gesture, put your hand in a position that you make when you are going to snap your fingers (thumb touching middle finger and palm turned sideways). Now, you need to make sure your index finger is loose and raise your hand about 8 inches or so. Then, throw your hand down fast while at the same time rotating it counterclockwise, and quickly raise it again. This movement is fairly similar to cracking a whip. If you do it correct, your index finger will snap against your middle finger and make a noise. The noise let’s you know you’ve done the gesture correct; however, sometimes Latin people may make this gesture without a noise. This gesture is usually repeated three or four times.

If any of you (newsletter readers) haven’t seen this gesture before and you are able to figure it out by the instructions above, I will consider this week’s issue a success! Please let me know if you figure it out.

Learning how to correctly do this gesture is fun, but learning when to do it is more fun. For example, let’s say Juan is planning to invite his friends over to his house to watch a soccer game (Remember, in Latin America, they do not watch “football” games, they watch “soccer” games). Anyway, Juan’s mother tells him that he can only watch the game with his friends if he gets the house straightened up first. Since Juan’s mother is going to be gone for a while, he decides to invite his friends over anyway without cleaning the house. Suddenly, Juan’s mother gets home early, sees the house is a mess, and yells “Juan”!! Juan would probably then make the “Someone’s in Trouble” gesture and have a look on his face that says, “Oh no, I’m in trouble”. Some of his friends will probably also make the gesture with the same expression on their faces.

As I said earlier, you can also use this gesture if you are in a late for something or in a hurry.

Also, if you can’t quite seem to understand exactly how this gesture is made, I suggest watching a Spanish TV channel for an hour or two and chances are that you will probably see someone make it.

Moral of the Story: Learning this hand gesture gets you more immersed in the wonderful Latin American culture. Also, if you are prone to getting into trouble and plan to visit Latin America, this is an WONDERFUL gesture for you! If you work with Latin people, watch for this gesture and you might start noticing it more often.

If any of you have had experiences with this, I would love to hear from you.

Sneak peek at next week: Variations in Spanish in different countries – serious and humorous

¡Hasta la próxima semana! (Until Next Week!)
David S. Clark — President / Director

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4 Responses

  1. Bob Custer says:

    The explanation is fine. In addition, keep the hand very relaxed and let it freely rotate ( no muscle required! ). The index finger will slap against both the middle finger AND the THUMB. It actually hurts if done too vigorously.

  2. Carol says:

    Hi Dave,

    I live in Trinidad and we have a lot of latin american influence since we are just north of Venezuela.
    This hand gesture is usually used by small children to show that someone will be getting into trouble or that a teacher or parent will be told when another child has done something wrong.
    It is usually accompanied by the phrase “I’m going to tell” :-)

  3. Sally says:

    Hello Dave,
    Interesting about the gesture which is also used in many parts of Africa, as in Trinidad, by children to show that trouble is on its way!

  4. danwize says:

    Cool! I didn’t realize they did that in Africa. They do it in Brazil too, but it doesn’t mean someone’s in trouble there.@Sally

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