Monday, August 2

The people of Almeria have one more phoneme: the tap on the arm

There is a universal language of gestures that, more or less, everyone understands. A smile or a scared face doesn’t need much explanation.

There are also positions that you don’t have to look up in a dictionary. Someone who sticks out his chest shows courage and confidence; someone who shrinks like a ball bug expresses fear or sadness.

In a book by Sonia El Hakim, Non-verbal code, I read that the position of the body of the person with whom you speak reveals if he likes you or not. When someone turns their body to face you, when they bring their upper body towards you, it is because they are interested in what you say.

I stopped to think about it and remembered those times that, without realizing it, I see myself half lying on a table to get closer to someone. It is a magnet effect that tries to shorten the physical and mental space of the conversation.

Although Sonia El Hakim warns that, shep! You don’t just have to look from the navel upwards. It is not worth what the face, shoulders and waist say. The lower body also speaks and is the most sincere. Someone may turn their torso towards you when they see you, but if their hips and legs keep pointing, for example, at the bar instead of at you, bad. That person may be being nice to you, but they are not giving you their full attention. There is a part of your body that is to other things.

I kept reading and kept looking for these universal gestures in conversations with my friends. But soon I fell into something that there is not so much literature about: local gestures. There the universal norm becomes blah, blah, blah. There we enter the terrain of custom and the inexplicable.

I am thinking, for example, of a dear Basque friend who, every time he sees me, hugs me with bullets on his back that almost kills me. To me and to everyone who greets. And we all love it because we know that those sticks are pure love. “It’s because he’s Basque,” we all say, while he greets us, in that distribution of hugs that looks like a spanking in turns.

But one day a doubt struck me. We attribute that impetus to being Basque, as if the harshness of the cold and the wind were coming through their arms, all Basques, when they hugged. And… nope. That cannot be established as a sociologic-mathematical law. Because in a warm place in Andalusia something similar happens. The people of Almería tap (sometimes tap) on the arm that are part of our vocabulary. And what’s more, they are polysemic.

The Almeria tap is used so much when speaking that it should be included in the dictionary. And since it is polysemic, they would have to collect, at least, these definitions:

In the first sense, it would be the meaning that my Basque friend gives him when he whips in his hugs: “Show of affection and joy when greeting a person”.

Sometimes I meet someone on the street and, without realizing it, I take him by the arm and give him two or three sticks while I greet him effusively. “Hombreee, but what a joy to see you!”, Splat! Splat! Splat! There, well held by the arm, so that it does not escape. It’s so natural to me that I don’t even realize it. But I know it because my partner usually tells me later: “What a thump of sticks you have let go to Fulanico “.

In the second meaning we would find: “Call for attention”. I have been investigating it for years and I have observed one thing: when I catch the most sticks is when, in a conversation, it occurs to me to look away from the eyes of the speaker. Plop! It is almost a mechanical response. You look the other way and splat !, you catch it, and immediately you return to fix your eyes on the person who speaks to you.

I imagine this has to do with non-verbal language synesthesia: the entanglement of the senses of sight and hearing. We hear through the ears, but the ears do not make any face to indicate whether they are listening or not. The ears are mute and, instead, the eyes speak; it is the look that indicates whether they are listening to you or not. For this reason, in Almería, you have to stare at whoever is speaking to you, don’t go to get a slap.

In the third meaning it would be: “Emphasis on what is told”. This tap has the function of the exclamation point. When we talk, when we get excited, or when something is very crazy, or very funny, we fan a few blows. The normal thing, if you are right-handed, is that with your left arm you hook an arm of the listener and with the right one, splat, splat, splat, splat, splat! in a bouquet. It is the gestural version of “!!!!!!!!!!!!!” that we write in the chats.

In the fourth meaning we would see: “Surprise”. It is also very common to be with someone, remember something and say: “Oh, I forgot to tell you that …”. That sudden memory, that something that suddenly arises, that almost fright, often appears like a cramp and comes out impulsively through the mouth (“Oh, I haven’t told you …!”) And through the hand (splat !). The tap is like the chas! when something appears in a magic show.

Some who visit Almería for the first time are surprised by that splat! so everyday in any conversation of good and they say that we beat. No man no; it is a linguistic question. We already know that many Andalusians complete the alphabet with gestures and fuss. But, in addition, the people of Almería, to express ourselves properly, we need that splat! like one more phoneme and that splat! which is the flesh and blood representation of the exclamation point.

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