Where does clapping come from?

This seems like a question that might have been asked (and maybe even answered) already at some point, but anyway:

When and where did people begin clapping to show their appreciation? It seems like it has spread to much of the world, although I would strongly doubt that it is a universal gesture.

Romans used to smack their lips to cheer… I guess people eventually wanted to be louder. People today do other things when they feel clapping does not cause enough noise. They stop their feet on the bleechers and shake cans filled with coins and so on.

Sorry no specifics for you. And I cannot guarantee that I have any idea what I am talking about…

in college i saw a group of tibetan monks who could do tritonal chanting, three notes at once. it was really weird…

but anyway, the emcee monk told the audience that in asian culture (or maybe it was just tibetan) clapping was equivalent to booing.

btw, what do other cultures do or say to boo? bit of a hijack, but i figure anyone who answers the OP correctly would also know.


Various cultures hiss as an equivalent to our booing.

Clapping was used by the ancient Greeks when they were viewing poor plays. Clapping put the actors off.
Somehow though clapping transformed into a sign off approval at the end of a performance (around the time of Philip II of Macedon - father of Alexander the Great)

It is sad that I know this but it is also the first time my degree in Greek and Roman Civilisation has come in handy

This link doesn’t explain why people clap, but it is interesting.

Off topic, but did you know the soud of snapping fingers isn’t made when the thumb and finger hit, but when the finger reaches the palm. You can prove this with a bandaid at the base of the thumb.

wow smart bob! this is really freaking crazy. when i first read this post, that’s somthing else i thought of. what the hell is the sound of snapping? i did it over and over, finally (instead of the band-aid method) using a finger of the other hand as the stopper for my middle finger. xure enough, same snapping sound

Or instead of using a bandaid… just don’t use a finger to stop at all. Woo.

It’s not sad. I love history and I wish I had known that, but I didn’t. I barely know how to spell civilization.

In Germany, rapping one’s knuckle repeatedly on a table is used in at least some situations in which Americans usually clap.

I once participated in a technical seminar series there, and after each presentation the audience “applauded” in that fashion. It was very convenient that this particular seminar room had long table/desk things in front of all seats - I don’t know what the protocol there is when no desk or table is present.

I think, but am by no means sure, that hand-clapping is customary in Germany after, say, concerts and such. If so, I’m curious as to why/how they make a distinction where American audiences generally do not.

Yeah, I know…I should have asked somebody while I was there. :slight_smile:

Even though I posed the original question, now I get to answer one, since I happen to live in Germany.

Rapping knuckles on tables is a German academic tradition only, done at the end of seminars, talks, etc. in classroom type situations in which everyone sits at tables/desks.

Otherwise Germans clap as is otherwise usual. I’ve noticed, however, that in academic settings without tables they often look like they’re awkwardly looking for something to knock on. Strange tradition…

tcburnett said:

I barely know how to spell civilization[/quote}
Careful there,tc, don’t let your American bias show so quickly. I suppose you would have a problem with colour, too? Civilisation is a perfectly acceptable British variant spelling.

Hey, thanks! :slight_smile:

When deaf people get together at deaf cultural events, they applaud by holding their hands above their heads and shaking them (rotating them, really) back and forth so the performer can see them.

Texas A&M University students hiss (actually, we call it a horse’s laugh) instead of booing at sporting events. Example: Ref makes an obvious bad call and the students want to show they disagree. The students do a “yell” called a horse’s laugh at the end of which all 35,000 students hiss.

Of course there are lots of things us Aggies do that are different, this is just one of them. :slight_smile:

Gig 'em.

Kein Problem