Oct/Nov 2015 Humor/Satire

The User's Guide to Standardized Greetings

by Steve Vermillion

Image courtesy of NASA and the University of Arizona

Image courtesy of NASA and the University of Arizona


1. Extend open hand (just one) only after person is within your "personal space." To extend hand early (when person is far away or has not yet arrived) is considered confusing and inappropriate.

2. When grasping hand, do so firmly but not overly so. This is not an opportunity for a demonstration of strength or the release of pent up malice. Clear your mind of suspicion and thoughts of retribution for all the wrongs you have previously encountered in your life.

3. Do not hold hand for a long period of time, nor release the hand prematurely. To be certain you are grasping for the right duration, count "one, two, three." Do so to yourself, though, being sure to keep your lips from moving.

4. Historical footnote: The handshake was conceived of by the Early Mongol Hoards. Late Mongol Hoards abandoned the custom only to have it reintroduced by the Irish. Modern scientists conjecture its purpose was to extend and display an open hand to a potential enemy, demonstrating it was free of tiny weaponry.



1. Waving is achieved by raising the arm and hand to approximately eye level. (Arm and hand raised higher than the waver's head is called "Signaling" and for another purpose altogether.) The hand should be open and never drooping (or crestfallen) at the wrist, and should wobble rhythmically, back and forth, like a metronome. The arm should be slightly bent at the elbow, while the fingers should neither be splayed nor excessively rigid. In no instance is waving with a closed fist considered good form as its intention will only engender supposition and conjecture.

2. As with the handshake, it is a violation of social protocol to wave either before the person has arrived, or the next day. Waving should be done on only two occasions. The first is while seeking attention, or to give the wavee an approximation of where the waver is positioned. The second is as a non verbal form of communication used as an acceptable substitute for phrases like "goodbye," "good riddance," or "glad that's over."

3. Historical footnote: In some societies waving is considered good luck, thus the adage, "Good things come to those who wave."


High Five

1. Begin with open hand. Hand should be facing the person who is to be the recipient of the high five. Hand and arm should be extended to well above the head, or as though "reaching for the sky" in initiating an enthusiastic, celebratory high five. In less expressive or raucous occasions, the hand is to approximate the height of the shoulder. When enthused high five is attempted, it is best to accompany it with a spontaneous leap as though you are small and insignificant. This applies to all height and weight classes.

2. Remember, high fives are restricted to positive, communally shared experiences. They are never used to connote sadness, disappointment or melancholy, just as, if you are a man, high fiving a girl is not recommended when seeking her attention unless you are a fellow cheerleader, and only then, just after practice or at an extra curricular, school-sanctioned event.

3. As with most other forms of greeting, high fives should not be attempted while alone, lying in bed, though it is perfectly acceptable to practice.

4. Historical footnote: The term "High five," as reported by The Oxford English Dictionary, has no confirmed etymological root, but it is believed by lexicographers to have originated with monkeys, followed by human beings, prior to the acquisition of language yet before the age of decorum and sensibility.


Hi, how are you?

1. Never respond to this all too common greeting by misperceiving it as an invitation to launch into a rambling, tangential treatise about last night, how you actually feel, your love life, personal health concerns, financial status, uniformed opinions, or bad thoughts. The interloper is only asking in order that you feel recognized, but not loved or especially cared for. The questioner is not really concerned about you and only wishes to pass by unmolested by your shared feelings.

2. Always respond, "Fine, and you?" Do not shout. Say the words in a well modulated, matter-of-fact manner, no matter how much your heart is breaking or you ache inside. When respondee answers, the same rules apply, even if they look tearful or appear to have been in an accident.

3. It is considered a breach of psycho-pathology to say, "Hi, how are you?" when no one outside your head is present.

4. Historical footnote: The term "Hi, how are you?" was enshrined in 16th century English penal code. At the time, being a recluse, hermit, or merely anti-social was punishable by being confined for a minimum of one year to a crowded prison cell with like-minded offenders, during which time guards, as a prescribed aspect of the sentence, would daily inquire, "Hi, how are you?"


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