Sunday, July 02, 2006

The English must learn to shrug it off (according to Darwin, the French already do, which may prove handy).


Helplessness, Impotence: Shrugging the shoulders.—When a man wishes to show that he cannot do something, or prevent something being done, he often raises with a quick movement both shoulders. At the same time, if the whole gesture is completed, he bends his elbows closely inwards, raises his open hands, turning them outwards, with the fingers separated. The head is often thrown a little on one side; the eyebrows are elevated, and this causes wrinkles across the forehead. The mouth is generally opened. I may mention, in order to show how unconsciously the features are thus acted on, that though I had often intentionally shrugged my shoulders to observe how my arms were placed, I was not at all aware that my eyebrows were raised and mouth opened, until I looked at myself in a glass; and since then I have noticed the same movements in the faces of others. In the accompanying Plate VI., figs. 3 and 4, Mr. Rejlander has successfully acted the gesture of shrugging the shoulders.

Englishmen are much less demonstrative than the men of most other European nations, and they shrug their shoulders far less frequently and energetically than Frenchmen or Italians do. The gesture varies in all degrees from the complex movement, just described, to only a momentary and scarcely perceptible raising of both shoulders; or, as I have noticed in a lady sitting in an arm-chair, to the mere turning slightly outwards of the open hands with separated fingers. I have never seen very young English children shrug their shoulders, but the following case was observed with care by a medical professor and excellent observer, and has been communicated to me by him. The father of this gentleman was a Parisian, and his mother a Scotch lady. His wife is of British extraction on both sides, and my informant does not believe that she ever shrugged her shoulders in her life. His children have been reared in England, and the nursemaid is a thorough Englishwoman, who has never been seen to shrug her shoulders. Now, his eldest daughter was observed to shrug her shoulders at the age of between sixteen and eighteen months; her mother exclaiming at the time, "Look at the little French girl shrugging her shoulders!" At first she often acted thus, sometimes throwing her head a little backwards and on one side, but she did not, as far as was observed, move her elbows and hands in the usual manner. The habit gradually wore away, and now, when she is a little over four years old, she is never seen to act thus.

Darwin, Charles - The expression of the emotions in man and animals, London, John Murray, 1872(page 265).You may read it here.

30 comments:

OMWO said...

It was really a funny coincidence that I happened to be reading this wonderful book by Darwin so soon after England's defeat at the world cup.

Just shrug it off, old chaps. It's just a game :)

And lets face it, the only thing that really matters to you is that the bloody french don't win ;),so you'll have to cheer for Portugal next Wednesday, in spite of yourselves!

Now, in Portuguese that kind of feeling is called "engolir um sapo" which means, funny enough, "swallowing a frog!"

on said...

Outra "funny coincidence". Estou farto de ouvir falar nesse livro nos últimos tempos. O link dá um jeitão!

OMWO said...

This was dedicated to the English just because of the huge amount of idiotic comments after this post in the Guardian. Nota Bene, however, some of the idiots posting are Portuguese. (Idiocy is universal, and just like some people don't know how to lose, some others don't know how to win).

on said...

Há uma pequena diferença. Os portugueses podem dizer as idiotices do costume típicas do futebol. Os ingleses entendem que um emigrante deve manter uma atitude de subserviencia para com os subditos de sua majestade, mesmo quando eles literalmente pisam os tomates dos seus compatriotas.

Anonymous said...

no doubt, world cup classy wit is still achievable despite world cup itself :)

OMWO said...

Thanks to Marcela Mora who decided to link to this post from the Guardian.

Dedicated to her and to all the Guardian readers who may be around, here is a small collection of old drawings from this blog that quite after the fact have everything to do with "the beautiful game".

It actually comes in two parts. Part 1, is, of course, the feet.

Part two will come in just a few minutes.

OMWO said...

Here is part 2. Can you guess the title? ;) (guess again)

Cheers!

Anonymous said...

no doubt, o incentivo é fundado :) well done, old boys! (ah, yes, and girls too...not old I mean, que a idade não é apanágio das Senhoras, olh'a pietà do Michelangelo:))

- Absolutely!
- Jawohl!
- Indeed!
- Mais oui!

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