Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The 18th Century: The language of the fan

In the 18th century, the hand fan was both utilitarian, as well as decorative. There were all kinds of fans, from the extremely plain paddle fans made from paper or wood, to the most ornate made of the finest silk and adorned with fine embroidery or painting.

A lady was never seen in public without her fan, for not only was it used as a device for cooling oneself, but it served as a means of discrete and quiet communication. Both men and women understood the "language of the fan" and used it to communicate some very private sentiments while in the midst of some very public places.

The following is a list of some of the most commonly understood fan gestures.

A fan placed near the heart: "You have won my love."
A closed fan touching the right eye: "When may I be allowed to see you?"
The number of sticks shown answered the question: "At what hour?"
Threatening gestures with a closed fan: "Do not be so imprudent"
Half-opened fan pressed to the lips: "You may kiss me."
Hands clasped together holding an open fan: "Forgive me."
Covering the left ear with an open fan: "Do not betray our secret."
Hiding the eyes behind an open fan: "I love you."
Shutting a fully-opened fan slowly: "I promise to marry you."
Drawing the fan across the eyes: "I am sorry."
Touching the finger to the tip of the fan: "I wish to speak with you."
Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: "Yes."
Letting the fan rest on the left cheek: "No."
Opening and closing the fan several times: "You are cruel"
Dropping the fan: "We will be friends."
Fanning slowly: "I am married."
Fanning quickly: "I am engaged."
Putting the fan handle to the lips: "Kiss me."
Opening a fan wide: "Wait for me."
Placing the fan behind the head: "Do not forget me"
Placing the fan behind the head with finger extended: "Goodbye."
Fan in right hand in front of face: "Follow me."
Fan in left hand in front of face: "I am desirous of your acquaintance."
Fan held over left ear: "I wish to get rid of you."
Drawing the fan across the forehead: "You have changed."
Twirling the fan in the left hand: "We are being watched."
Twirling the fan in the right hand: "I love another."
Carrying the open fan in the right hand: "You are too willing."
Carrying the open fan in the left hand: "Come and talk to me."
Drawing the fan through the hand: "I hate you!"
Drawing the fan across the cheek: "I love you!"
Presenting the fan shut: "Do you love me?"

~From All About Fans

1 comment :

  1. this is a great post; the information will certainly help me write my online historical fiction (http://societybook.wordpress.com). I had fun reading about all the different meanings fans could have.

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