To Clap or not to Clap, that is the Question.

Miss Kara of Condi’s Hair requested that I explain clapping to her. She was particulary bothered by the notion that I don’t clap. First off, I must correct her…I never said that I don’t clap, only that I didn’t clap while writing haiku. I can, and do clap, when the need arises. Oftentimes, I do not know what I’m clapping for. I very frequently have no idea what’s going on, but if a crowd of people start applauding for some singer on the stage or that breakdancer on the corner, or that red-as-a-beet birthday fellow in the booth across the aisile, I figure I should applaud the fact that he or she is getting applause! Celebrations are meant for everyone, and applause is a form of celebrating; therefore I clap.

However, you might be interested to know that Deaf people (those who are culturally Deaf, as well as physically deaf) do not clap to show appreciation for a performance. Instead they do a hand shake kind of thing, where both hands are raised high over the head, and the hands shaked and waved about, as if flicking water off. A standing ovation would include some foot stomping. I tried to find a video of the phenomenon, but none was to be found. You’ll have to take my word for this, instead.

Back to clapping. The act of slapping one palms together is not always done in praise or celebration. It can be done to draw the attention of a faraway dreamer, to turn light on or off, or even to kill a mosquito that’s buzzing around your face (though that might be less clapping and more squashing). It can also be used to add percussion to a song or dance (such as the Pasa Doble, or the Mexican Hat Dance, olé!). And according to Ask Yahoo!, Tibetians clap away evil spirits. I don’t believe in Evil or Spirits, so I don’t clap for either. I guess I wouldn’t make a good Tibetian.

No one knows where clapping comes from. My guess is that the reason for the clap varied with each of the primordial human tribes of ancient prehistory. At some point for each of those various tribes, some individual found the act and sound of the clap useful: for one it was the ability to get the attention of an excitable child, for another, it was the use of creating rhythm to add to ritual songs, and for some perhaps as a warning against predators or harm. Who knows?

But as for me, I clap when I’m supposed to clap. My mother raised me to be polite.


10 thoughts on “To Clap or not to Clap, that is the Question.

  1. what an interesting post. i’ve never really thought much about clapping. like you, i just do it when i’m supposed to (and sometimes, probably, when i’m not supposed to)

  2. Martha: hmm! I’m intrigued by your last comment. Under what circumstances did you clap inappropriately, and why would you do so? Oooo…

  3. oh nothing too intriguing or inappropriate… but i tend to clap when i’m laughing sometimes… so i’ve caught myself clapping my hands together in the middle of a movie theatre or in my cubicle at work when i’m watching a you tube video with my headphones on.

    yeah… i’m pretty wild.

  4. Martha: I love this! That’s great. LOL. Its so charming and engaging, the image is irresistable. Thanks for sharing this with me!

  5. Pool; Whats the ‘golf clap’? Is it the clap where they tap hands together and make no sound? Yeah, thats pretty lame…

    Puss; You can demand your audience to applaud you with the wave when you rise to burlesque stardom! I’ll be in the front row showing them how its done.

    Kara: Are you making fun of me again? LOL. Thanks for the cheers.

  6. Interesting answer. It’s one of those things I’ve never given a bit of thought to. Except to notice that some people clap one hand on top of the other, and others both flat together. YOu know, they do that hand wiggling thing at silent Buddhist retreats also. So as not to break the silence when people want to express apporval or appreciation. Sometimes when a teacher is giving a talk, the standard is to still do the silent hand wave thing, for instance. Keeps the atmoshere mediatative.

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