From nine to five – and the mystery of the mature greeting


How do you write the number 9?

Starting in the top right corner with the anti-clockwise balloon followed by a straight line down? Or starting from the base line, working your way upwards on the right in one big mirrored C, turning in on itself toward the end? Perhaps you start from the very center of the figure, moving clock-wise to the left, upwards, reaching the top and continue down in an arrow shaped hand movement until you reach the bottom, as if drawing one circle – right, lower, left, up, right again and then finishing off with a long slide of the hand, getting off track from the original circle shape? That is how I do it. The latter. I write the number 9 starting from right to left, as if writing in Arabic, which I by the way have no skills in doing. But that is not how I was taught.

Only in 7th or 8th grade, after having followed the example of my maths- physics-, chemistry- and gym teacher Mr. Å, did I switch to this much more simple and swift way of writing a nine. I saw him do those nines on the white board and it made all the calculations look so much easier! I tried it. Being 13 years old I was no longer forced to use pencils in school, but was, much to my happiness, allowed to use ball point pens, and I figured no one would tell me off for steering away from writing protocol… It didn’t take long until the motion felt natural and this became my new, adult way, of writing the number 9. So how come I was taught, and I believe it is still taught today, to shape the number as in my first example, starting to make the upper balloon, connecting it in the upper right corner, and then making the straight stick, from top to bottom? Other than the capital letter A, I think I have been taught to write all letters and numbers starting from the top, which would fit my examples 1 and 3 above, both the way I was taught and the way I do it now. Any thoughts on this? Perhaps it differs between countries too? Given their language use the Latin alphabet (A-Z) and the Arabic numbers (1-10) of course. I’d love to hear your input!

How about your hand wave? When you wave someone off who is going away, how do you move your hand? In what kind of motion? I tend to hold my hand up, in an “I-give-up-don’t-shoot” kind of position, and then shaking it, with the whole lower arm accompanying, from right to left, back and forth, still with the palm of my hand facing forward, toward the person I’m sending off. Now, I do remember I made an active choice of changing to this way of waving. I can’t recall exactly when it was, but it was in my childhood, and I remember watching the adults around me waiving in this way and contemplating why on earth I, and most kids around me, were waving in a more hand-trying-to-grasp-something-movement. You know, hand and wrist still, but the four fingers doing straight crunches toward the palm of the hand, up and down up and down… Does this sound familiar? Do you wave any different from the children around you? Or what patterns can you see in your surroundings? I am well aware that greetings are cultural, with everything from x number of kisses on the cheeks, or in the air, to two-handed embraces, rubbing noses and an open hand to your heart. But given a situation where the type of waiving I’m talking about is common, what does it look like in your life?

My very clever little niece Great G asked me on Christmas if I could separate my ring finger from my middle finger, keeping the rest of the fingers on each side tucked nice and closely together and straight (something I learned later was the signature hand gesture for Mr. Spock’s Vulcan salute. I’m a few years too young to have been schooled in Star Trek, sorry). I told her, and showed her, that I could but it requires my attention, especially on with my left hand. She of course did this without any problems. I then continued to ask her, and the rest of my family members scattered around in the room amongst wrapping paper and toffee candy, if they could count to five for me, on their fingers. I had a little ulterior motive here, again linked to my previous milestones as a child, when I came of age in the number writing and hand waving practices 🙂

Little Great G, and almost every one else if I’m not mistaken, started counting with a closed fist, palm facing themselves. Then they started counting 1 – opening up the thumb, 2 – raising the index finger, 3 – middle finger, 4 – and here it becomes a bit tricky and not so easy to keep fingers straight; raising the ring finger, and finally 5 – little finger comes up and the whole hand is open. Not surprising at all. This is exactly the way I used to count to! However, at some point in my teens, my friend Foxy F counted in a way that didn’t screw up the appearance of the hand as she moved to number 4. Awesome I thought. And copied it. She did 1-3 just like me, but when it was time for 4, she withdrew her thumb and instead raised both the ring finger and the little finger at the same time, making it a straight hand a là the Hamsa hand (different spelling from Arabic and Hebrew, i.e. Khamsa, also known as the Hand of Fatima). How come we did it differently? We grew up together shared the same Swedish culture and schooling, yet we had our other sets of cultures too, from our Persian and Turkish heritage which would differ from the Swedish, but in an international setting be pretty much bundled up as shared middle eastern… How do you guys count to five on your hands? Do military folks do it differently than kindergarten teachers? Women from men? Children from adults? Or extrovert personalities different from extroverts… Please share!

One thing is for sure, this weekend I’m going over to my mum and dad’s house and I’ll look into what their practices are, because I honestly have no clue!


4 thoughts on “From nine to five – and the mystery of the mature greeting

  1. Ja, man lär fortfarande ut att alla bokstäver ( utom x) ska skrivas uppifrån. Detta för att underlätta inlärningen av skrivstil -har jag hört. Men nu finns det ju inga krav på tjusig handstil eller att man ska kunna skrivstil i skolan längre, bara att man ska skriva läsligt. Så det kan ju knappast spela nån roll hur du väljer att forma dina bokstäver. Mycket intressant just nu eftersom mina egna kids håller på med läs-och skrivinlärning på egen hand. Jag lägger mig inte i hur det ser ut. Vinkandet ska jag fundera på. Om jag vinkar till en bebis som är nära, typ en som sitter i en vagn och man vill gulla lite, då vinkar jag med fingrarna som du beskriver. Återkommer. Mycket intressant och bra skrivet. As always.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Tack Igge! Jag gör nog likadant som du med vinkningen, alltså om det är till en bebis så vinkar jag med böjda fingrar lite frenetiskt och med ett stort leende i ansiktet. Varför då? Det är väl därför barn lär sig att det är så en ska vinka? Varför vinkar jag inte min vanliga vuxenvinkning till barnet? Är den inte lika engagerande kanske? Är det för att barn inte har samma utvecklade periferiseende som vi vuxna så de skulle missa höger-till-vänster-vinkningen? Hmmm..

      Ja vad gäller bokstäverna minns jag nog något liknande, att det under lättar för framtida skrivstil väl. Eller åtminstone för framtida snabb handstil/antecknande. Men siffrorna då… Hur skriver du en 9:a Igge?


        • Avslutar du magen underifrån (alltså en paus i rörelsen, innan du fortsätter att gå ner i strecket), eller avslutar du magen uppifrån (och således bara “fortsätter” med strecket nedåt? Alltså, går magen upp eller ned först? (Shit vad svårt det är att förklara detta!!)


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