Wednesday, March 26, 2008
The Secret Language of the Fan
(Above: What is she trying to say?)
It's hard to imagine, but it wasn't long ago that females were expected to appear prim and proper at all times. Well into the 20th century, a woman could not easily speak her mind (or flirt with a suitor) without breaking one of society's rigid rules. So, over time, a secret language may have developed--one that didn't involve moving one's lips. Though some historians doubt it ever existed, others insist that the language was passed from woman to woman for centuries until it died out completely some time in the last hundred years.
Called the "Language of the Fan," it involved a series of gestures made using a hand fan. Each gesture contained a powerful hidden meaning. For instance . . .
If a woman covered her left ear with an open fan, it meant, "Do not betray our secret."
If she touched one finger to the tip of a fan, she was saying, "I wish to speak with you."
If she raised the fan in front of her face using her right hand, she meant, "Follow me."
A fan placed over her heart said, "You have won my love."
A half-open fan over her face (or twirling a fan in her right hand) meant, "We are being watched."
Drawing a fan through her left hand meant, "I detest you."
Many of the gestures and meanings have been lost over the years, but a few devoted fan-lovers are trying to keep the Language of the Fan alive. You can read more here and here. You can also see the gestures in action here.
Whatever the historians say, I'd like to believe that women once had their own secret language.