Endangered gestures: Asking for the cheque/bill/l’addition

Posted by Ian on Nov 27, 2008 in blog | No Comments

Much ink is spent on discussing the danger posed by globalisation and technological progress to linguistic diversity. I’ve been wondering recently though about the threat of such things to gestures. In particular, the gesture for ‘Can I have the cheque/bill please?’ or ‘L’addition, s’il vous plait?’

There are many different gestures for communicating this, differing from country to country and culture to culture (such as the one used in the Philippines – seen above). In the Anglo-Irish-American discourse, there is the simple finger held in the air and a nod to the server. Then there is also the more elaborate ‘I’m holding a piece of paper, and I’m signing my name on it’ gesture, signifying the holding and signing of a credit card receipt. My particular favourite is an elaboration of this gesture – the ‘I’m an Impressionist painter’ signal – much grander gesture where the credit card is signified as a painters palette and the pen is something of a paint brush in it’s use.

But these gestures are all under threat with the dominant adoption of chip&pin terminals in restaurants around the globe. Now, the action frequently used for a credit card transaction is typing in a PIN into a keypad. Will this mean that the ‘Impressionist painter’ gesture will be eclipsed by a ‘I’m typing into a keypad’ gesture to ask for the bill?

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