Snapping fingers instead of clapping?

The last couple days I was at a conference where people snapped their fingers repeatedly and rapidly, rather than clapping. I understood it as a less noisy alternative. There was also clapping, and I think the clapping was meant to be more emphatic than the snapping. Most often people were snapping to indicate approval of a specific point the speaker was making during the talk, rather than to indicate general approval of the speaker after the talk ended, and I wondered if the intent was to show approval without making it so hard to hear the next thing the speaker was saying. This was at a conference of trans* people, and I don’t think I’ve heard this in any other audience, but I heard it in each of five different seminars at this conference.

Is this common? How new is it? Do I understand the intent right? Is this specific to any group or context?


There was a thread that wasn’t purely about this, but a few posts talked about it. There’s not much of a consensus, though.

Were the trans people jazz musicians and beat poets?

I believe Hamilton College students were doing it back in the early 70s. I’ve seen it happen elsewhere from time to time, but not as a general thing.

Next they’ll be using silent hand signals. Oh, wait…

Well, those are mainly to express DISapproval. :wink:

Not that I ever saw.

In Germany people knock on the table rather than clap to show approval, especially in an academic setting (conferences etc) - I guess this is similar.

Not an official source/cite, but my friends do this (the snapping) at parties instead of raucous applause/cheering when the police have been called on us already because of noise complaints.

I was thinking of the Occupy… practice.

I saw a comedy skit on one of the many variety shows back in the early 1960s that included a scene with an audience in a jazz club snapping instead of clapping for a poet. It was intended to make fun of beatniks with their cooler than thou attitude. :cool: Looks like the new hipster generation can’t separate satire from reality. :stuck_out_tongue:

Here’s an instance from 1984 where the audience does the finger-snapping thing at the end of the performance in David Bowie’s “Jazzin’ for Blue Jean” video/short film.

I was at a college board meeting a few weeks ago where the students present snapped their fingers in approval. I assumed it had been decided that this was below a threshold of disruptiveness that would have caused the chair to clear them from the room.