Monday, March 23, 2009

The Secret Language of ...

by Donna MacMeans

When I was writing THE SEDUCTION OF A DUKE (which has a release date of April 7th, but you can preorder by clicking on the image at right *g*), I wrote a "wordless" scene where the heroine and her nemisis have an entire confrontation by virtue of the postioning of their hand fans. (Don't worry, it's possible to determine the substance of the "conversation" by the reaction of witnesses - but if you have any doubts - I've put a full list of the meaning of the various fan positions on my website.)

Here's the thing - I'm not sure I buy all the supposed "secret" languages of the Victorian era.

How discreet can a "secret" communication be if every woman in the room can interpret the meaning of the various signals? Certainly the men must have been privy to this language as they were often the intended recipients of the signals. Somehow I have difficulty believing this was high on the priority list of the eligible bachelors. To compound the problem, I found different interpretations of the same hand gestures.

For example, if a woman rests the fan on her right cheek, it means "yes." If the woman rests the fan on her left cheek, it means "no."
If she drops the fan - which I must admit, if I were transported back to the nineteenth century, I'd be doing this constantly - it means either "We will be friends" or "I belong to you" depending on which interpretation you follow. (By the way, I stole the fan image on the left from the Victoria and Albert Museum. It dates from 1840.)

I purchased a hand fan for the Dallas RWA convention to use when I awarded the winner of the Golden Heart - Long Historical award. I learned that the crisp "whump" of the fan being snapped open is a highly desired sound. I also learned that it's best to have a firm grip on that baby when dramatically snapping it open as the fan is likely to sail across the room! (Yes, I know that from experience!) However, I could not find an interpretation of that particular gesture. (This fan, by the way, is another is the V&A collection and is an example of a fan manufactured to match a particular fabric. This one dates from 1880).

Some of the described gestures translated in the language of the fan sound like they'd look a little ridiculous in the execution. For example, if one should place the fan behind one's head with a finger it is not an insult of Victorian means "goodbye." (Hmmm....maybe it IS a crude insult and the "goodbye" translation is grossly understated) But how silly would that particular gesture appear?

The whole concept of a secret language of fans made me think about more modern secret languages. For instance, an earring stud worn in a man's left ear means something entirely different than one worn in their right ear, doesn't it? We all know that a gold band worn on a woman's left ring finger means she's married, but does it have a special meaning if she wears it on her right hand? I have to admit I'm clueless if these things do have a secret meaning. *g*

I did a quick Google search and discovered that many things are purported to have a secret meaning from the way we sleep (our bed positions) to the way we talk. (In the midst of an argument, the response "nothing" tends to mean something else indeed!)

So my question for you is - are you aware of any secret meanings in modern culture? Share please so we all can learn - or laugh if that's the case. *g* Heck - feel free to make them up! I think to a certain extent, that's how the secret language of fans began.

As THE SEDUCTION OF A DUKE is a sequel to THE EDUCATION OF MRS BRIMLEY (blantant self-promotion here), I'll send a copy of Mrs. B to the person with the best "secret" interpretation to ... anything (but keep it G-rated please.)


Anna Campbell said...

Ha ha!

Anna Campbell said...

Hey, that's my third time in about a week. What is it with you US gals? Are you getting slow in your old age?

Donna, wonderful post. I find these arcane details of history really interesting. Although I agree with you - how secret can the language be if everyone speaks it? Sounds a bit like a Maxwell Smart joke, doesn't it?

Some years ago, Rendezvous Romance Books in Sydney (now sadly defunct) had an exhibition of fans that a private collector lent them. Wow, how beautiful they were and how fascinating. There were fans for people in the anti-slavery movement and in the Suffragette movement among other political ones. There were naughty fans - I stole the idea for one of those for the opening scene of Tempt the Devil when Olivia is teasing Erith. A lot of them were just exquisitely beautiful. The workmanship took my breath away.

Donna MacMeans said...

My Goodness Anna, you're quick on the spur this morning. Congratulations!

Donna MacMeans said...

I agree. I haven't seen many actual antique fans - except one that matched a beautiful peacock themed dress - but the photographs are absolutely breathtaking.

I think it might be handy to carry a fashion accessory that can be used to bop someone on the head when warranted *g*. Not sure we have a modern day substitute

limecello said...

:P I go to another blog, and see what happens.
Very neat post, Donna! And I have heard/read a lot of different interpretations. I'd say maybe it changed by region? But it seems like everyone's always talking about the same place/time :P

Haha - might be... well I won't go there. But it makes for perfect fodder for angsty characters, right? Misinterpreted messages... (Actually I think that'd go better in a comedy. As a "serious" issue that would annoy me.) :X

Congratulations on the GR, Anna!

Donna MacMeans said...

Another blog!!! Limecello! I feel so...jilted *g*. Hmmm...wonder if there's a gesture for that...

The closest I can come is - if I draw the fan across my forehead. That would signal "You have changed." OF course, if that gesture was accompanied by a squint, it would mean "The sun is in my eyes. *g*

Anna Campbell said...

Yes, Donna, a fan is considerably more elegant than pepper spray! Oh, dear! A squint? This fan language is getting more complicated by the minute!

Jane said...

Congrats on the GR, Anna.

Hi Donna,
That's a beautiful fan. I like to buy fans as souvenirs whenever visit Asia. I've never heard of any of these fan signals, but it's definitely fascinating. The only gestures I'm familiar with are for letting the dealer at the blackjack table know whether I want to stay(wave hand over cards) or a hit(tap the table with your finger.)

PinkPeony said...

Hi Donna! Congrats on the rooster...again...Anna...that rooster's going to get jet lag in the worst way!

PinkPeony said...

I was subjected to three hours of woman batting fans in front of their faces last night while I kept an eye on my mother-in-law...she was watching old black and white Chinese opera films, the kind with the awful music and nasally sing-song voices that sound like a bunch of cats being tortured. As for fan gesturing in the movie, I think the actresses were attempting to be coy while they held the fans in front of their faces or they were hiding bad teeth. I saw a beautiful antique fan collection at the National Museum in Taipei a few years ago.

Secret meanings? What about the ubitquitous hair flip? Or the way some women drape their hands over the steering wheel when stopped at a signal. I've always wondered about that.

I usually forget to put on my wedding ring and I sleep on my side with four pillows. Secret meaning: I am forgetful and I like pillows.:)

Helen said...

Well done Anna enjoy your day with him

Donna I love the post and love those fans they are beautiful I am so looking forward to The Seduction Of A Duke it is going to be a birthday present for me.

I don't know any secret meanings in modern culture wish I did or could think of some it will be very interesting seeing who does and what they are.

Have Fun

Suzanne Welsh said...

Lovely post, Donna and Anna, make that bird behave today!

Secret meanings...hmmmm... They say if you make contact with someone you are sexually interested in, your pupils will dialate. Now whether that is a secret or not, it does show your body's response to that person.

The only secret language I know is that of the OB nurse. Here are some classic signs:

Patient walks in smiling and laughing, but says she's having contractions... I'm a first time mom and you're probably sending me home in false labor!

Patient walks in waddling with a towel between her water has definitely broken and you will be keeping me until I have my baby!

Patient is oriental and speaks some english, is not really smiling, but not making any noise...probably 8 centimeters and will be ready to delivery shortly.

Woman arrives in wheelchair being pushed by frantic husband. She is clutching the side of the wheel chair either grunting like a sumo wrestler or screaming, "The baby's coming"...oh heck just put on your gloves and pretend you're Johnny Bench!

Suzanne Welsh said...

And by the way Donna, I love those pictures of fans!! I'd covet those any day!

Laurie said...

After raising 3 sports minded boys, I have to say that hand signals are used all the time in baseball and football as they signal in plays from the sidelines/bench. The only one I understand is the T gesture for time out!
I don't know any fan secrets.
Today, we still use the thumb up or down to represent good vs bad

Anna Sugden said...

Fabulous post, Donna. I've always been fascinated by fans - can't wait until next month's trip to the V&A to see some.

I agree with you about the so-called secret language. I will say, however, that even in my uni days, we still played around with fans at the balls.

ROFL at Suz's maternity room signals. Especially the oriental women one.

I've always been fascinated by the betting guys at a horse race - their hand signals are amazing. Not a clue what they mean, but they look cool.

I'm sure I undertsand most of the signals at a hockey game - though Donna did say to keep this G-rated.

And, as a former Primary School teacher, I can often tell what's going on with 7 year olds by the signs!

Anna Sugden said...

I used to work with a director who used to sit back and screw the top back on his fountain pen before he blasted you - talk about a give-away!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

If I am having a bad day I don't even understand English. If I am having a really bad day and I did once know any of the secrets of today's communication I have forgotten.
Congrats on the GR Anna, did you two get something going when no one was looking?

Deb Marlowe said...

Great post, Donna! I find the idea of everyone knowing the 'secret' language somehow even more interesting! I imagine everyone watching each other like hawks!

In today's world, I find the idea of Twin-speak fascinating. Loved the movie Nell.

Caren Crane said...

Anna C., I think you have Super Glued the GR to your couch or something. In the middle of a sound sleep last night, I could have sworn I was awakened by the Squawk Heard 'Round the World! *g*

Donna, if there is a secret anything in the world, I am the last to know! First, I don't notice things (like huge signs, buildings, landmarks, etc.). But I do notice people, so maybe I would totally "get" the fan language. I think it would certainly be amusing!

Thinking of what a "crush" many of the large balls and parties were in the 19th century, maybe it isn't too far-fetched that a woman could send gestures to another with her fan. After all, who would be able to see her? *g*

I can think of no secret signals, except some gestures young people and their friends come up with that are signals, like, "let's leave NOW". When I was young and hanging out at dance clubs with my friends, we had "rescue me" signals we could send to one another in case we were trapped talking to Undesirable Males.

I think we also had code phrases to use that meant "we need to leave NOW". I have no idea what those gestures and phrases were, but I know we had them. They were life savers!

Also, at a job I used to have, my team mates and I would perform a service for each other. If someone had been "visiting" for more than 10 minutes, one of us would walk by and try to make eye contact, looking for a "signal" from the trapped person. If we got the slightly-widened eyes, we would surreptitiously go to someone else's cube (a good distance away) and have someone page the trapped person OR call them so they could pretend a client was on the phone. Thank goodness for that one. It saved me quite a few times from being talked to death!

RachieG said...

Hmmm...I'm not super sure about modern secret languages, but I do know I have a hard time sometimes keeping up with my friends. I'm 22, and it seems like every other week there is a new saying or word that I'm supposed to know.

For the longest time, one of my friends would tell me just at random silly times, "ARE WE GONNA BE BEST FRIENDS? slight pause YEP!" And honestly, I thought she was just being weird...but then it turns out it's a phrase from Step-Brothers! :)

Soooo, I've kinda gotta be up on stuff to understand anything these days.

Margaret said...

Nice Post Donna! It's almost unbelievable that there was so much meaning to those gestures. Then again in television production, there are hand signals for "go" and "cut" and in baseball there are tons of hand signals. Hmm....there is more to this than I thought.


terrio said...

Someone gave me a list of these things once, the interpretations of the fan movements. I'm sure I still have it but I've no idea where. And as I write contemps, it doesn't come in very handy. :)

From rare cases of watching college sports on television, I think there is some kind of new hand language that I don't get at all. But for these kinds of things, I figure I don't need to know so it doesn't matter.

Lovely fans, Donna. And I can't wait to read this conversation. Whether this whole fan language was real or not, I'm certain there was something to it and to see it used in this way in a story sounds interesting.

Suzanne Welsh said...

Margaret, I love the hand signals in baseball. Have yet to figure out what they mean...and supposedly each team has a different set, but who knows. But I do have a theory on the meeting at the mound that often takes place. Here's my interpretation:

Pitching coach goes to the mound and is met by the first and third baseman, and catcher.

Coach: Well guys, we gotta stall for the next commercial
Pitcher: Good, my fastball is sucking anyways
Catcher: I'll say, you can't find the broadside of the barn with that thing
1st baseman: Hey speaking of barns, we going for burgers after the game?
3rd baseman: I like that place on Market, got great wings, too
Coach: sounds like a plan, wings and burgers, and let's try the changeup on that next batter.

Out trudges the Umpire: Hey guys, the TV guys say we can quit stalling, and save me a beer at the Burger joint

Donna MacMeans said...

Jane - From what I can tell, the use of a pleated hand fan began in Japan in the twelfth century. To be honest, the idea to blog on fans occurred to me this weekend when we were out for Chinese and I saw a beautiful red fan displayed - so it's little wonder you'd see them in Asia *g*.

LOL on the blackjack signals. I suppose that qualifies as they're auniversally accepted gestures (as is raking in the chips with a wide grin on one's face *g*)

Donna MacMeans said...

Pinkpeony - All that fan fluttering could drive one crazy. The hair flip is a great contemporary gesture. The hands in both arms draped along the side of the wheel? Maybe that's - I'm letting all the balls drop for a few moments while I'm stuck here at this stoplight. The next step from there is the banging of one's head on the steering wheel while at the stoplight. *g*

After I read that article on sleep positions, I tossed and turned a bit wondering - what does this mean? I'm a sleep on the side with three pillows myself. Guess we like to surround ourselves with softness - like clouds.

Donna MacMeans said...

Suz - LOL on the labor signals, esp. the first. I know we went to the hospital with my first when my water broke. There were some labor pains - though you could hardly call them pains, more like "slight discomforts" but what did we know? If my water hadn't broken, they would have sent us home. I had no idea what labor really felt like till hours later.

Have a great day delivering the wee ones today!

Donna MacMeans said...

Laurie - You're right! I hadn't thought about hand signals in sports but, of course, they needed those signals to communicate amid all the noise. I used to know the referee signals to communicate penalties and whatnot - but now that they are all miked - no need.

I noticed that anytime a fan made contact with a woman's lips it's supposed to be a subtle sign that she'd like to be kissed. I suppose the modern woman does the same with her fingers, tapping her lips, or letting the little finger slide under the lower lip to draw the man's eye to that area. So I guess we're still sending those signals out there.

Donna MacMeans said...

Anna - LOL on reading those hockey signals! I suppose the re-screwing of the pen top would be a like a poker tell. So basically, he was indicating what he was planning to do to you - in G-gutter language.

I'm jealous that you get to visit the V & A museum. My wonderful daughter purchases their books for me as gifts for research purposes. I have the one on Fans on my desk. Gorgeous illustrations. I'd love to see them in person. One of these days...

Treethyme said...

Anna - I would have given you some competition, but I was up the whole previous night reading Christina Dodd's new book. I'm a night owl, but every so often the need for sleep catches up with me. Tell that GR to relax and enjoy himself -- if I ever snag him, he's going to get a workout!

I loved the pictures of fans, and now I'm eager to read your book and see how you worked the secret language into your story.

I have a couple of fans that are practical more than particularly pretty (say that three times, quickly!). Since I entered the Age of the Hot Flash, I always carry one in my purse.

As far as modern day secret languages, other than the earring thing you mentioned, I can only think of two others -- the "secret handshake," something that was big awhile back but has gone out of fashion, and the Hawaiian (?) trick of identifying a woman's eligibility by the placement of her hibiscus flower. Behind the left ear means she's single, behind the right means she's taken. Or vice versa.

I've always been fascinated by the Victorian Language of Flowers. I have quite a collection of antique postcards and books (old and new) on this subject. I'm playing with the idea for a romantic suspense story where a serial killer leaves flowers on his victims -- a local flower shop owner realizes the killer is sending a message in the secret language.

The story hasn't gotten beyond 35 pages, mainly because of the same issue Donna mentioned with the secret language of fans: different sources give different meanings, and some are contradictory. Must have been confusing and embarrassing to those who based their interpretations on the wrong source!

Treethyme said...

Just realized, I started that post talking to Anna, and didn't address Donna when I started "talking" to her instead!

Donna MacMeans said...

Diana - I hope you're NOT having a bad day today!

I bet you can interpret gestures better than you think - especially as a hardworking mom. I think women are basically intuitive at interpreting body language and gestures - and really - isn't that what the language of the fan is?

Donna MacMeans said...

Hey Deb!

I bumped into the language of twin-speak as well in my foray into googledom last night. I think it's fascinating. I have twin nieces so I figured I could always check with them if the need arose, but that's definitely an exlusive secret language.

Donna MacMeans said...

Now Caren, as the true southern lady that I know you are, I would think you - of all of us - would be adept at the language of the fan *g*. I can visualize you at a debut ball fluttering away and batting those long eyelashes at some handsome beau.

Thank Heavens for those escape signals and code words! I'm not sure how secret they truely are. I imagine the look of pure gratitude at the interruption would translate loud and clear - unless, of course, you were hiding behind a fan. *g*

Donna MacMeans said...

Then I'm afraid I'm hopeless, RachieG. I haven't seen the movie Stepbrothers yet. I probably would have had the same reaction to that question - utter confusion.

Guess I best not go into the language of flowers ro the language of the handkerchief, huh?

p226 said...

Gang culture is full of secret meanings. Especially the attire. There are different ways to wear clothing that show affiliation with gangs. Also, there are different ways of wearing clothing to indicate disposition.

Let's take for example two gangs, and a few identifying features.

Color - red
Number - 5
Symbology - Five pointed crown
Side of body - Right

Color - Blue
Number - 3
Symbology - Trident
Side of body - Left

Let's say you see a gang member. He's wearing black shoes. His tan pants are cuffed only on the right side. He's wearing a single bracelet, on his right arm. Rings are on his right hand. He's wearing a sports-jersey, red, with the number 5 on it. His hat is Converse, (5 pointed star logo) worn up and to the right.

This guy is a blood all the way. But he's not looking for a fight.

Now his nemesis.

He's wearing a blue jogging suit. On it, is an Adidas logo on both the left side of the pants and the top. His jewelry is also worn on the left. He's wearing three bracelets on his left arm. Go google the adidas logo. Everything is in threes. Adidas has been marketing to crips as heavily as Converse markets to bloods.

But there's something different about our crip. His ballcap. See, he's wearing a generic black ballcap. But it's not what's on the cap that matters. It's how he's wearing it. The bill is tilted down, and to the right. You might think, "the right? This guy's a crip. His side is the left. Why is his hat down and to the right?"

It's a war message. He's looking for a fight. "Down with the right." It's an insult. This guy's wearing all blue, adidas "trident" logos. He's clearly a crip. But he's wearing that hat down and to the right to insult any bloods he might come across. He wants a fight. You may notice also that the sole of his right shoe is red. Same thing.

And in most cases, there is no such thing as random graffiti. It is all "secret" messaging hidden in plain sight.

Donna MacMeans said...

Margaret - And let us not forget those arm movements that spell out O - H - I - O *g*.

Your post reminded me of the hand symbol for "call me" which at one time may have resembled a phone. Now I suppose I'd just have to hold my flat palm up to my ear to make the same symbol *g* By the way, a fan held up to the left ear means "I want to get rid of you." So be careful which ear you make that phone signal with.

Donna MacMeans said...

Terrio - But even in contemporaries, there are signals and body language. Still - nothing that comes close to the language of the fan. Wouldn't it be something if we substituted a handbag for the fan in this art of communication? They both are fashion accessories born out of practical need. Let's see - there's the strumming of the fingers on the bag to signal impatience. Maybe the quick opening and closing of the bag to indicate hot flash *g*. The spilling of the bag on the floor to signal absolute frustration at a sucky day.

Anna Sugden said...

Suz - LOL - that reminds me of the scene in Bull Durham where they're talking about wedding china and stuff.

Donna - come and visit! You can stay with us and we'll go up to London and see the V&A!

P226 - great info on the gang stuff. Reminds me of an episode of The Closer which dealt with some gangs in LA. I can't hear the word Quatorze (sp?) without thinking of the gang in that show.

Margaret - oh yes. forgot about the filming signals from my days in marketing and advertising.

Anna Sugden said...

Remind me in DC to show you what the English use as a gesture for a dick-head, Donna ;), since this is G-rated.

Donna MacMeans said...

LOL Suz at the baseball conversation. I must admit to a fascination with the hand signals myself - but that might have more to do with the intimate framing of the catcher's signals to the batter. The mind does wander...

jo robertson said...

Donna, what a delightful topic! You always come up with the most interesting subjects. I can't wait for the release of Seduction of a Duke. I have it on order from Amazon, but April 7 seems soooo far away!

Isn't the history of fan usage fascinating? When I was growing up in the southern U.S., fans were actually used for fanning. Every Sunday in church you could find those little cardboard fans with advertisements of the local funeral parlour on them. We'd have died without them with no air conditioning.

It's also interesting how the language of gestures crosses cultures, sometimes with diastrous consequences. In the middle east the use of the right hand is very specific from the left hand, stemming from sanitary purposes.

A waffling of the hand in the west now means a general "maybe/maybe not" intention. Biting one's thumb in Shakespearean England was equivalent to our denigrating (and somewhat universal) finger gesture of disrespect.

When I was a girl we stuck out our tongues as a facial gesture for "nah-nah-nah-nah," but I hardly see that anymore.

Great discussion!

Whooooo, Anna, go girl, treat that rooster well today! You're on a roll and they say three times is a charm! Yeah, we're pretty decrepit over here!

Joan said...

Very interesting post, Donna.

The only secret fan signs I know are when the A/C is on the blink in church and you pick up a bulletin to fan. That says "Dear Lord, don't we put enough in the collection basket to fix the darn thing?"

As to earrings. How could you possibly tell with the earrings nowadays? A lot of young guys wear them in both ears (I HATE that) or multiple ones.

jo robertson said...

Vrai Anna, I forgot about the sports hand gestures! Baseball ones have always confused me. They're given with such profound seriousness, but look to the uninitiated eye (read JoMama as not a sports fan) as just plain silly. I mean, really, they're like all over the face, the nose, the ear, the chest.

The gestures seem such a contrast to the slow pace of the game.

Now, come on, sports fans, defend the male arena!

jo robertson said...

It's interesting too, P226, that those gang symbols and signs arose in prisons where there was a need to communicate without the guards understanding.

Fascinating, huh? And scary!

Oh, there's also all of the symbolic hand gestures of the Masons.

Donna MacMeans said...

Treethyme - Of course if he's a murderer - and thus fairly uncaring as to people's interpretations - would it really matter if others interpreted the significance of the flowers differently? The important thing is what HE thinks he's saying. If the good guys don't understand it - well that's their problem. (Until the hero or heroine figures it out). This sounds intriguing and you'd be the perfect one to write it. Go for it!

flchen1 said...

Those are gorgeous fans, Donna! And I definitely would have been a fan klutz if I'd lived back in the day... Hmm... I don't know much about secret languages or signals--I did just read a book recently about a florist, and the special meanings that different flowers and plants had--for instance, pink carnations mean gratitude whiled red tulips are a declaration of love...peonies are for healing while lavender represents distrust. And here I would have chosen just what happened to look freshest ;)

Suz, LOL on signals you receive as an OB nurse!

I think the only signal I might use on a regular basis is the standard fierce glare combined with a slash of the hand across the throat--"Cut that out this instance OR ELSE!"

Congrats on the GR, Anna! What kind of signals has that wily one been sending?

Donna MacMeans said...

P226 - Which shows why I'm not a gang member - I could never keep all that straight *g*. I knew that the graffiti was really secret messaging, and that the gangs had different colors - but the marketing of Converse and Adias just appalls me! I wonder if this is chicken and egg thing (with apologies to the GR). Did the gangs latch on to the symbols of these two sports giants for their own purposes? Or did the sports giants, seeing the tie-in between gangs and their attire, make sure to put the logos on the right or left side to make them more appealing to gang members?

I'd like to say that living out here in the suburbs means I don't need to be concerned about signing and gangs, but I know that's not true. It's incredible that a war can exist right under our very noses, but we're too blind to see the signs.

Must be how a Victorian gentleman felt when beseigned with fan gestures (Donna says in an attempt to return to levity)

Donna MacMeans said...

LOL Anna - Definitely looking forward to seeing you again in DC in just a couple of months. One of these days, I'll take you up on that excursion to London. I saw on the news that international flights are super cheap right now making international travel even more appealing.

And I'd love for you to complete my education with the symbol for a dickhead *g* I'm quite sure it will appear in a novel someday.

Donna MacMeans said...

Jo - There seems to be a theme in this fan language research that gestures to the right of the face mean good things - Yes, I love you, When can we meet, etc. While gestures to the left are bad - No, I want to get rid of you, Don't flirt with that woman, etc. So even across cultures there's a trend to associate the right with good and the left with not-so-good. And yet the heart - which I believe is pretty much a universal symbol of good - is on the left of one's chest. You'd think the implications of right and left would be reversed.

Do you think there might be some corelation between a funeral parlor and lack of air conditioning in killer heat? A little advance planning, perhaps?

Even in Victorian times, fans were used for advertising as well as promoting political positions. They made popular souvenirs as well when printed with commemorative scenes. The more things change - they stay the same.

Donna MacMeans said...

LOL Joannie - I love your comments!

I wonder if the earrings in both ears & multiple earrings (clusters of three?) have some hidden meaning.

I guess there's the whole subject of tattoos as well - I'm guessing that certain symbols have meaning which communicates something specific to a restricted circle. Funny how we don't communicate to the masses, but just to a select circle.

Christie Kelley said...

Great post, Donna. And I do agree that I find it hard to believe it's a "secret" language if more than just a few people know it.

I love all the pictures of fans. I have a beautiful silk fan that a coworker brought back from China for me.

As far as secret languages or signals in modern times, I don't know any.

MsHellion said...

Sweet! I can't wait to read the sequel! (And I can't wait to read the fan scene--that sounds hilarious!)

Covert, subtle, and secretive aren't exactly words associated with me. I'm sorry I won't be able to contribute to the game. *LOL*

The closest we had to "covert" signaling is if a student or someone comes into your office and is causing trouble, you can call another staff member and ask for "Form 10" and "Form 10" was supposed to signal the staff member that I was in need of rescuing. This was all well and good, except this student came to my office and was an absolute plague--and my co-worker called while the student was there and said, "Do I need to bring Form 10?" I said, "I think it's too late." And hung up...and the student said, "That's the phone call to get rid of me isn't it?"

Donna MacMeans said...

Ms. Hellion - LOL - See that's what I mean about those rescue calls. The expression on your face, or the tone of your voice, must be a dead give away. We all send out signals even without a prettily painted fan.

I was thinking about the lack of a contemporary accessory to replace the flirtatious fan for purposes of communication. I think in my case, I can substitute a can of Diet Dr. Pepper. I can position it near my mouth to draw attention to my lips. I can rest it against my forehead to say "You're giving me a headache." I can rest it against my right cheek to say "Didn't sleep at all last night" and my left to say "Hot flash!"

Suzanne Welsh said...

Donna said: I wonder if the earrings in both ears & multiple earrings (clusters of three?) have some hidden meaning.

Don't know, but mostly I think it means, I really like pain and/or jewelry

Suzanne Welsh said...

p226 said:And in most cases, there is no such thing as random graffiti. It is all "secret" messaging hidden in plain sight.

I've watched a coupld of documentary and cop shows that interpret some of the messages behind graffitti. Interesting and scary. Once it's pointed out, you can see some of what it says.

Donna MacMeans said...

fichen1 - You and me both (very big grin). I may have to include a klutzy fan character in a book. I mentioned that my hand fan when flying across the room when I tried to open it with a snap. Can't tell you how many times I had to pick it up from the floor - and I wasn't wearing a corset! I wonder what the Victorian women did? I don't think you can bend in those corsets (heck I could barely sit when I tried one). Maybe that's why the message when you drop the fan is "We will be friends" because you're going to need that friendship to get your fan back!

Dianna Love said...

You all have the most interesting topics. I've never seen one done on fans. And, Donna, I love the cover of your new book The Seduction of a Duke - glad it's coming soon!

Donna MacMeans said...

Thanks Dianna - Berkley does a wonderful job on their covers. Looking forward to seeing you in June in Cincinnati!

hrdwrkdmom aka Dianna said...

Donna MacMeans said...
I bet you can interpret gestures better than you think - especially as a hardworking mom. I think women are basically intuitive at interpreting body language and gestures - and really - isn't that what the language of the fan is?

I did know a woman that always had her arms crossed over her chest when out in public, she was very intro-verted (even more than I was) and I always felt she was "closed off".
I can interpret some signs from babieser. Knees drawn up to chest and very red in the face, got get the diapers....LOL

Beth said...

Donna, what a fun post! I love learning the secret language of fans *g*

I don't know any secret meanings in modern culture - though I wish I did! Of course, I'm so forgetful I probably wouldn't be able to remember the meanings for very long :-)

Donna MacMeans said...

LOL Dianna - That might be the secret language of scent *g*

Beth - I think you as well intuitively know more than you realize. After all, you're a writer. Think of the secret language of fans as the secret language of shoes - only higher.

peggy said...

Love the fans.I know when kids talk
on I.M. the letters they use has a
secret meaning

Donna MacMeans said...

Hi Peggy -

Hey do you think that IM spelling will affect the spelling skills of the next generation? I sometimes wonder.

Pat Cochran said...

Congratulations, Anna!

I have my favorite cowboy fan over
my computer - if I locate a similar
fan, will they be able to communicate
with each other in this secret "fan
language!" Just asking! LOL

Pat Cochran

Louisa Cornell said...

Late to the party. Sorry, ladies. Darned day job is interfering with my REAL life!

Congrats La Campbell! Poor GR is going to get international dateline whiplash at this rate!

Great post, Donna. I LOVE those fans. I have a great research book that I found at a flea market called Unfolding Beauty : The Art of the Fan. The fans in it are GORGEOUS! I love the idea of a secret language. SO many possibilities.

The only secret language I know about is the sign language I taught my deaf Great Dane. Glory was born deaf and I started teaching her sign language at six weeks of age. The funny thing is that my one eyed dog, Pirate, and my chihuahua learned the language too. It blew people's minds that I could stand there, not say a word and with one subtle move these dogs would sit, lie down, stand, stay, go get a toy and put it in the toy box. It was so much fun to watch people try and figure it out.

Virginia said...

Congrats Anna on nabbing that rooster, he must like it at your house. You spoil him don't you?

Great post Donna, I have heard of this fan language before so I don't think it is that big of a secret.

I don't know of any secret hand signals or anything other when I am mad at hubby or son and I give the the evil eye. Believe me you don't want my evil eye. That about the only sign I know about.

Donna MacMeans said...

Hey Pat -

I saw a neat cowboy fan from the Petticoats & Pistols group - is that the fan you have? Definitely Hot! That fan would need a fan to cool down *g*

Virginia - the evil eye, huh. All mothers manage to develop one, don't we. Definitely a sign.

Donna MacMeans said...

Louisa - I'm so impressed! Heck - I couldn't train my dog to do those things and she has (had) full hearing. The "had" is because she's now so old (16) she doesn't hear much - and yet the crinkly sound of opening a bag of chips seems to make her pick up her ears *g*.

Unfolding Beauty sounds great. Amazing treasures one can find at garage sales. I'll have to watch for that one.

Donna MacMeans said...

And the winner is...

Margaret with the production crew hand signals. Margaret if you'll email your contact information to, I'll get a copy of THE EDUCATION OF MRS. BRIMLEY to you.

Pat Cochran said...

Hey Donna, That's the very one I'm
talking about! It was in a prize
package that I won after the author
convention where the fan was first
introduced! It is one of my most
favorite prizes! LOL

Pat Cochran

Joanna D'Angelo said...

Great Post Donna! Well regarding hand and body gestures and their meaning -being Italian I know of many! LOL! Including taking your right hand, palm down and running it from your neck up along to your chin while jutting your chin out (hope I explained that one) means "f/you". Many people know that one. Also my grandmother used to bite her hand and then shake it at my sisters and me when we were kids and making trouble. She was a very expressive woman! ;)