Paul and Lucy Spadoni periodically live in Tuscany to explore Paul’s Italian roots, practice their Italian and enjoy “la dolce vita.”
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Look at these photos and
tell me what it should be called
Randall, me and Micah on Steele Street in Tacoma. I have since discovered that I am holding my hands incorrectly.
What do you call it when
people walk with their hands clasped behind their backs? Although
everyone has seen someone do it—maybe you’ve even done it
yourself—this form of perambulation apparently has no name. And
now, it is up to you to help me name it.
Proper hand position demonstrated
by an unknown Italian in Padova.
I called it the old-man walk
in my book manuscript, and my editor suggested that name is too
vanilla and lacks punch. I gave it that plain title after noting that
men of a certain age in Italy often walked with hands joined behind
their backs. I’ve since had other people point out that old people
in other European countries as well as China, India and Japan also
walk this way, so it is probably pretty universal.
My editor gave a few
examples, but none of them fit: old man waddle,
duck stroll, old dude swagger. I admit that walk is boring
and non-specific, but the fact is, the essence of the old-man walk
is in the position of the arms and not the gait, so most synonyms
for walk just aren’t accurate. It’s not a waddle, swagger,
shuffle, march, hike, amble, saunter, tramp or stride. It’s just a
normal walk, with hands clasped behind—and there is no one-word
term for hands behind the back.
wait, doesn’t Google have the answer? After nearly an hour of
reading about walking, hand positions, body language and racism (hard
to read any online forums without this topic coming up), I learned that
there is no name for this type of walking, and that people everywhere
are curious about why some people—mostly older people—do it.
given by those who like to walk this way include: It helps me
balance. It’s easier on my back. It helps me think. Other people
suggested it signifies dignity, control, power and quiet confidence.
An article in Scienceofpeople.com said, ‟The
reason this can be powerful is that it exposes the most vulnerable
part of the body. Only supremely confident people will place their
hands behind their backs in that way. You often see principals or
teachers do this as they walk up and down rows of students’ desks
Prince Charles at a London train station.
British news magazine Daily Mail wrote: ‟To beat back pain, walk
like a royal. For perfect posture, interlink
your fingers from each hand behind your back, just like Prince
Charles does. This will open up your chest and get your shoulders
back and down, reversing the slumping posture many people have while
The website Lonerwolf first
explains that hands-behind-back is the total opposite of crossing
one’s arms over the chest because it ‟exposes the vulnerable
chest with its vital organs, stomach, crotch and neck in an attempt
to demonstrate fearlessness, superiority and self confidence.” Be
careful, the site goes on to add, because there is also a wrong way: ‟If, however, the person doesn’t
have their palms over their hand, but instead grips
their wrist with the other handbehind
their back, it says something completely different. Instead, it
as if refraining themselves from using that gripped hand to punch or
An example of proper form.
getting back to my original problem, what name should I use in my
manuscript? I need help. I should digress briefly to mention that a
primary school in Great Britain made a rule last year that students
must walk in straight lines in hallways with hands clasped behind
their backs. The head teacher called it ‟the university walk,” in
an attempt to give it an important-sounding name. Parents revolted,
pointing out that it made the school seem more like a prison than a
school, and many questioned the name because they didn’t see
university students walking that way. The head teacher has since
resigned and the new school boss dropped the rule. So please, that name has
been rejected and is off limits.
will take nominations for a few weeks, and then I’ll put a survey
up. You can nominate terms by making a comment on the blog, my Facebook page or
messaging me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Here are a few nominations to get the ball rolling: