From pigments to printing presses, symbols have been part of human communication from the very first day of mankind’s existence.
The imperfection of speech, which undoubtedly allowed the sharing of ideas and stimulated invention, eventually resulted in the creation of new forms of communication, improving both the range at which people could express themselves and the longevity of information.
Nowadays, symbols are so common that we hardly ever wonder how they started. A symbol can tell you more about a person, a group of people, an organization, or even a religion and political ideology than a thousand words.
Most of us are perfectly aware of what certain symbols represent and in many cases a single hand gesture or salute is enough to give you a clear message.
THE SHAKA SIGN
The shaka sign, sometimes known as “hang loose,” is a gesture of friendly intent often associated with Hawaii and surf culture.
It consists of extending the thumb and smallest finger while holding the three middle fingers curled, and gesturing in salutation while presenting the front or back of the hand; the hand may be rotated back and forth for emphasis.
While the shaka sign has spread internationally from its Hawaiian cultural roots to surf culture and beyond, the hand gesture also bears a variety of meaning in different contexts and regions of the world.
According to the Honolulu Star-Bulletin, prevailing local lore credits the gesture to Hamana Kalili of Laie, who lost the three middle fingers of his right hand while working at the Kahuku Sugar Mill.
Kalili was then shifted to guarding the sugar train, and his all-clear wave of thumb and pinkie is said to have evolved into the shaka as children imitated the gesture.
Yet another theory relates the origin to visiting whalers who signaled a catch with a “tails up” shaka.
Shaka and its very positive associations may simply derive from the popular World War II “V for Victory” hand sign, in Hawaii often held up and rotated rapidly back and forth, “shaken”, hence shaka.