David Dyer-Bennet dd-b at dd-b.net
Mon Mar 3 13:40:18 PST 2003

Ryan Grove <ryan at wonko.com> writes:

> 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.
> 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 do.  It seems a perfectly normal motion to me.  The most
stereotypically complete version, for me, seems to involve extending
the forearms, palms up, at the same time, and tipping the head
somewhat towards the right shoulder. 

I don't notice it especially in others, either; it's so natural, such
a part of the flow of communication, that I just get the meaning, not
really noticing the medium.

However, dislike and dread have nothing to do with the meaning of
shrugs as I understand it.  Sometimes a shrug is used to diminish
dread, but that's not the same thing as *expressing* it. 
David Dyer-Bennet, dd-b at dd-b.net  /  http://www.dd-b.net/dd-b/
 John Dyer-Bennet 1915-2002 Memorial Site http://john.dyer-bennet.net
	   Dragaera mailing lists, see http://dragaera.info