The NonVerbal Dictionary of Gestures, Signs & Body Language Cues


Gesture. A palm-down cue in which a tabletop or level surface is struck by a percussive clap with the open hand.

Usage: The table-slap is used a. to accent a key speaking point; b. to object to another speaker's statement; c. to demonstrate an emotion, e.g., anger or mirth; and d. to call attention to one's own presence.

Observations. In the workplace, table-slaps are visible at meetings around a conference table. In offices with cubicles, senior staff may table-slap the dividers of junior staff members at will, but the latter may not slap a supervisor's partition, railing, or office door. On a subordinate's cubicle partition, the table-slap signals a. "I am here," b. "I have something to say," and c. "I am more important than you." Example: Hearing his boss slap, a senior executive in range establishes eye-contact and slaps a nearby surface to answer the call. Each subsequently averts gaze, approaches the other with a swagger-walk, and leans on a junior staff member's partition to chat, before returning to private offices a short distance away.

Primatology. Slapping the ground with an open hand is a gesture directed by adult or young adult baboons at other baboons in the wild (Hall and DeVore 1972).

RESEARCH REPORTS1. Slamming an open hand on a tabletop is called a baton, a nonverbal sign used to emphasize a speaking point (Ekman and Friesen 1969). 2.The pound gesture is "A sharp blow by one hand against the other immobile hand or against an object such as a table" (Brannigan and Humphries 1972:61). 3. Slap ground is an aggressive gesture in langurs (Dolhinow 1972) and savannah baboons (Hall and DeVore 1972). 4. "The animal [a chimpanzee] raises one or both hands forward or to the sides and hits the ground or an inanimate object with a flat palm" (Berdecio and Nash 1981:30). "In this study the gesture always appeared to function as an attention getting device. In general, instances performed with the alert face served as play invitations" (Berdecio and Nash 1981:30). 5. Palm-down ground-slapping is a threat gesture in chimpanzees (Pan troglodytes; Goodall 1990) and in bonobos (P. paniscus; Waal 1997).