"Rubbing your hands together in anticipation (of something good)"

Discussion in 'Cultural Discussions' started by Dee Poe, Nov 12, 2007.

  1. Dee Poe Member

    United States - English
    In America, we typically rub our hands together as an expression of glad anticipation of something good about to happen, and especially, of a tasty meal about to be served. Additionally, if our hands are cold, we rub them together as we blow our warm breath on them to try to warm our hands.
    Because this expression, "rub the hands together" as one "blows into them" is found in the religious poetry of an ethnic group in SE Asia that has no nuanced associations of this term [apart from a derived association involved in their spirit worship], I am trying to determine what this term meant to them when it was first incorporated into this poem [referencing the formation of God's image, etc.].
    Do any cultures out there have the practice of "rubbing the hands together"? If so, what is the meaning associated with doing this? Thanks for any help.
  2. Kajjo

    Kajjo Senior Member

    The same is true in Germany, but a little bit less common I believe. I feel this gesture to be a bit joking, funny, self-ironic. However, the association to positive anticipation is the same.

    Again, the same applies to Germany -- at least the rubbing to warm your hands which actually works. The blowing of breath is not so common.

    I am sorry, but I cannot contribute anything to possible Asian or religious meanings of these gestures.

  3. alexacohen

    alexacohen Banned

    Santiago de Compostela
    Spanish. Spain
    So we do here. But the "something good" may be, very well, a cruel revenge.
    Yes, we do that, too. But there is no hidden meaning. Our hands are cold, and that's all.
  4. Mahaodeh Senior Member

    Arabic and English
    Here it's like it's like alexa said. I'd imagine someone rubbing his hands together to also say: "muwa'a'aaa" and visualise him in a black cape with red satan lining.

    In my culture there is a habit of feeling guilty for being too happy and they also have a habit of thinking that if something good comes along, it will probably be at the expense of something else good that we already have. So it would be very rare to see someone expressing such glad anticipation with hand gestures.
  5. mirx Banned

    Same applies for México.

    More than something good, I associate the hand-rubbing with something evil that is to be enjoyed, Alexa´s example of a revenge suits perfectly what I have in mind.

    As for blowing when your hand are cold, we do it too in México.
  6. cuchuflete

    cuchuflete Senior Member

    Maine, EEUU
    This needs clarification. "Typically" may suggest that the gesture is common, frequently employed. It is not.

    In the U.S., rubbing the hands together may be, as suggested above, a sign of anticipation of something good; it may be a sign of anticipation of sweet revenge, of evil plans about to come to fruition. The gesture is seen more in children's cartoons and films than in "real life".

    Rubbing hands together to warm them is fairly common. I doubt this is a cultural
    phenomenon. Rather, it's just physical instinct.
  7. Dee Poe Member

    United States - English
    Yeah, as regards your last observation, about blowing on your hands as you rub them together to keep warm -- I would have thought that was simply a natural response to being cold. Surprisingly, though, there seems to be a cultural aspect to this. The people group I referred to in SE Asia get cold in the winter, but they don't rub their hands together to warm them, etc. I'd be interested in knowing if other Asian cultures also do not rub their hands together to keep warm.
  8. samanthalee

    samanthalee Senior Member

    Mandarin, English - [Singapore]
    May I know which people group you are referring to? We do have mountains in SE Asia and it does get mighty cold up in the mountains. But I can't imagine SE Asia having winter. The phrase "...in SE Asia get cold in the winter,..." leaves me perplexed.:confused:

    Is there a possibility that SE Asia here isn't referring to South East Asia?:confused: Sorry if I've misunderstood.:p
  9. Dee Poe Member

    United States - English
    Thailand is farther north than you are. On the highest mountain, Doi Inthanon, it can get down to freezing temperature during really cold spells when cold air sweeps down from China. But even if it isn't normally that cold, many tribal people build their houses of bamboo, and are raised about two meters off the ground on house posts. Almost every year, there are a few people in the mountains that die of the cold. Winter here is the cold season months of December to early February.
  10. veracity

    veracity Senior Member

    It is definitely the same in Hungary. Personally, it was very difficult for me to give up this practice, because it is a little bit childish practice. If I am happy and alone I rub my hands when I am happy. Not only in anticipation!
  11. Dee Poe Member

    United States - English
    Dear All,
    Many thanks to all of you who have shared your cultural experiences and backgrounds concerning the "rubbing hands together" practice. From having had an opportunity to query people from Southeast and East Asia, and from doing Google searches, I have learned that in East and Southeast Asia, the practice of rubbing one's hands together is culturally meaningless and is not even done, not even in an attempt to warm cold hands. In India, including in the eastern regions toward Assam, it is done with similar cultural connotations to those found in most European countries. Additionally, it seems it was also done as an expression of anger, especially over an inability to punish a wrongdoer.
    I was surprised and puzzled to find that there seem to be neither Hebrew or Arabic cultural expressions such as found in India and Europe. The question for me seems to be: how did this expression spread over so much of Europe, but also get to the Indian subcontinent [but not to China or South-East or East Asia]? Was it brought by Alexander the Great?
    The missing link, for me, would be to know if this expression is found in the Turkish-speaking language groups. Can it be found in Afghanistan, Iran, or the former Soviet Central Asia republics.

    Any one want to offer any further help with this one???
    Many thanks.
  12. black.x.white Member

    Hong Kong SAR
    Oi, oi. I'm live in Hong Kong, and I've done plenty of hand-rubbing and blowing on them this winter.
  13. Dee Poe Member

    United States - English
    I stand corrected! Thanks!
    Just a question: what is your family's background? what province in China are they originally from? Thanks.
  14. LaReinita

    LaReinita Senior Member

    East Coast, USA
    USA (Northeast Coast)-Inglés
  15. Etcetera

    Etcetera Senior Member

    St Petersburg, Russia
    Russian, Russia (St Petersburg)
    In Russia, the gesture is associated with quite the same.:) But it's quite unusual to see a person rubbing their hands before a laden table - I suppose it's quite an informal gesture, not to be used in a restaurant, for example.

    We do use the expression "rub the hands together" (translated into Russian as "potirat' ruki"), but it is used very often in a metaphoric sense. Curiously enough, very often a diminutive of "hands" is used ("ruchki" instead of "ruki"). This diminutive is often used when the phrase is employed to describe an anticipation of revenge (as Alexa has mentioned).

Share This Page