Mon Mar 3 13:15:21 PST 2003

On Mon, 2003-03-03 at 16:00, Ryan Grove wrote:
> Ever since I was a wee lad, I've wondered exactly what a shrug is. Is it 
> the raising of one's shoulders and, perhaps, the accompanying 
> downward-turned mouth and raised eyebrows? Or is it something else 
> entirely? Could the verb "to shrug" be completely ambiguous, and perhaps 
> refer to some unseen state of mind rather than a visible action?
> Webster's Revised Unabridged Dictionary ((c) 1996, 1998 MICRA, Inc.) 
> says the following:
>      shrug
>      \Shrug\, v. i. To raise or draw up the shoulders, as in expressing
>      dislike, dread, doubt, or the like.

Hmm.. I believe this definition is missing something. I perfer this
definition from the American Heritage dictionary (actually I pulled it
off dictionary.reference.com):

        To raise the shoulders, especially as a gesture of doubt,
        disdain, or indifference.
> This leads me to believe that the standard definition of "shrug" is a 
> visible, physical raising of the shoulders, and this brings me to my 
> next question, which is: who shrugs?

I shrug, and some of my friends shrug.  It's actually a very useful

<small snippage>

> Especially confusing are instances when a character is described as 
> being enraged or angry, then shrugging,

Really?  Makes plenty of sense to me.  You become angry at something,
then you 'shrug it off'.  In other words, you become upset at soemthing,
then you decide its not worth the trouble and become indifferent about
it, and possibly signify this change by an actual physical shrug.

>  such as in _Jhereg_ after Aliera 
> and Morrolan argue when Vlad tells them of the situation with regards to 
> Mellar. It seems to me that the shrug is a very lighthearted expression, 
> and not one that would normally be used by someone who is angry or 
> upset.

I don't think of it as lighthearted at all.

>  Even the fact that Aliera or Morrolan would *ever* shrug, under 
> any circumstances, is a little hard to imagine.

Odd, I find it very easy to imagine them shrugging.  Look at the
definition I posted.. a shrug can be used to express disdain and
indifference.  Think about Aliera and Morrolan.  I can see them express
disdain quite a bit, as well as indifference towards things they think
is beneath their concern.  The shrug is a great way for them to show
that's how they feel without bothering to actually open their mouth for
something that is obviously beneath them and not even worth opening
their mouth over.