The coronavirus has the world rethinking the act of shaking hands. After all, if skin-to-skin contact is one of the most common ways that viruses spread, handshakes might not be the best idea, right? Recently, a French official advised against the tradition of kissing one another as a form of greeting, a German politician refused to shake hands with the head of state, Chancellor Angela Merkel, and the World Health Organization’s director of pandemics suggested a unique way to greet one another: an elbow shake!
Elbow shakes are a creative alternative to the handshake, but we wonder: If shaking someone’s hand is such a virus-spreading action, why did we start doing it in the first place? One popular theory is that it began as a way for soldiers to show that they didn’t possess a weapon and that they came in peace. The up and down movement of clasped hands meant that any hidden daggers could come shaking out if one were devious enough to hide them! Or perhaps a handshake meant an oath or promise to come in peace. Fourth and fifth century BC Greek art showed handshaking as a part of a person’s final farewell or death, and Roman coins showed clasped hands, possibly depicting a form of friendship and loyalty.
But even though kissing, tipping a hat, or bowing were once commonplace, a handshake soon emerged as the most common way to greet or meet a person, especially in a formal setting.
In the wake of the coronavirus, which of these would be your preferred way to greet one another? Fist bump, tap feet together, elbow bump, or something else?