The British expression "noise stroke gesture" (in American parlance, "noise slash gesture" or "noise/gesture") refers to the intriguing fact
that some vocal expressions seem to call for an accompanying hand
gesture. Take, for example, Pfft! No matter what its intended meaning, it virtually demands to be echoed in sign language.
Reader Jonathan Caws-Elwitt suggests some other great examples:
Someone pretends to moisten a finger,
then touches it briefly to her posterior and mimes the effect of the
finger "sizzling" -- to the accompaniment of a "Tsss"
vocalization. And how about the triumphant "Yessss!" that
is always(?) accompanied by body language? Or Fonzie's "Ayyyy"
with thumb extended? Or the one where someone acknowledges
someone else by briefly pointing at him/her while making a one- or
two-syllable clicking sound (reminiscent of a shutter-release)?
Have you noticed a noise/gesture in print? Please share!
(For a variety of surprising definitions of noises like pfft, check out my Dictionary of All-Consonant Words at OneLetterWords.com.)
Our friend Jonathan Caws-Elwitt
spotted this lovely pfft
variant in the wild:
We can verify that p'fft
is an appropriate response to "blankety-blank nonsense" (as noted on the first page of Budget Weddings For Dummies
). Relatedly, Wodehouse has written: "He had a dim sort of idea that it began with an F or a G, but beyond that his mind was a blank" (The Small Bachelor
But did you know that p'fft
comes down to us from an ancient Chinese expression meaning, "May your children and grandchildren never murmur as they carry out the careful and brilliant virtue of their predecessors"?
It's commonly assumed that the apostrophe in p'fft
stands for an f
, the concept being that an f-too-many is overwhelming. Indeed, Wodehouse notes: "You could have knocked me down with a f" (Right Ho, Jeeves
). Yet the truth is more interesting. The apostrophe actually stands for a hyphen, swept upwards as it were by the breath of the expression.
"The shed went quiet save for the pfft
of Paul dragging on his cigarette." —Screwthedaisies, Things Inside
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