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Old 12-13-2008, 08:10 PM
Elephant Whisperer
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Posts: 39,492
What's Up with Handshake Spitting?

The wife and I watched the Deadwood series on DVD. In it, they frequently spat in their hands before a handshake to seal a deal more firmly. Gross! I figured maybe that was some sort of Old West practice that had died out. Then this weeken, we watched This Is England, set in northern England in 1983, and they did the same thing! I am completely unfamiliar with this practice. I hope no one ever expects moi to spit in my hand before shaking with them, because if so, they're going to be sorely disappointed. Just where does this come from anyway? It was completey unheard of where I grew up in West Texas. Never saw it in the Southwest or Hawaii, which are the other places I lived in the US. I don't think I ever saw it in movies or on TV before Deadwood.
Old 12-13-2008, 08:34 PM
Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Nibiru
Posts: 1,133
I'd say it's almost like the signature in blood type of thing, just a less intense version of it. Still though, the spitshake is pretty gross. I've never done it and probably won't.

Last edited by EpicNonsense; 12-13-2008 at 08:35 PM. Reason: typo
Old 12-13-2008, 09:48 PM
Charter Member
Join Date: Apr 2002
Location: California
Posts: 8,099
It's supposed to be an old horsetrading custom, possibly Irish, possibly "gypsy" (by this, I don't know if other writers mean Romany or some itinerant group like Irish Travellers). And yeah, the symbolism of the exchange of fluids seems clear).
Old 12-13-2008, 11:48 PM
Join Date: Jul 2006
Posts: 2,603
I think it got banned in Ireland some years ago.
Old 12-14-2008, 06:20 PM
Join Date: Mar 2007
Location: Dublin, Ireland
Posts: 10,135
People still do it, especially Travellers.
Old 12-14-2008, 09:01 PM
Elephant Whisperer
Join Date: Nov 2006
Location: Honolulu, Hawaii
Posts: 39,492
I'm clear on the symbolism, but I was wondering where it came from and if it still existed and see it does. On Deadwood, they seemed to be striving for historical realism; if they did get that right, I wonder why the practice did not seem to make it out farther West. Or if it did, I never heard of it.
Old 12-14-2008, 09:31 PM
Join Date: Oct 2001
Location: The Republic of Anoxia
Posts: 2,048
It was part of southern american culture as late as the Great Depression era. Or at least Harper Lee has led me to believe so. Scout and Atticus (in To Kill a Mockingbird) are making a deal regarding her staying in school, and he 'will consider the bargain sealed without the usual formality' when he sees her preparing to spit. The tone of the passage makes me think that the custom was falling out of favor, considered low class and vulgar, etc.
Old 12-15-2008, 11:58 AM
Join Date: Sep 2008
Location: Buffalobama
Posts: 373
I can't tell you anything about it historically, but I was born in New York in 1983, and as a kid, me and all my friends did it.
Old 12-15-2008, 01:59 PM
Join Date: Jan 2000
Location: Maryland, My Maryland!
Posts: 1,597
As a kid I read (and loved) the Great Brain series and in one, our hero Tom becomes an Indian blood brother since he uncovered a corrupt Indian reservation official and saved the tribe from being deprived of their allotment of supplies.

So in becoming a blood brother, Tom and the Indian chief have the palms of their hands slit and they then shake hands and (this is before the fear of blood born pathogens, AIDS and the like) with the ensuing exchange of fluids become, well, blood brothers.

I would imagine for boys that spitting and then shaking hands is a watered down version of the general idea and hey, it beats other forms of fluid swaps that they could have explored.

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