High Five

high five

The high five is a celebratory hand gesture that occurs when two people simultaneously raise one hand, about head high, and push, slide or slap the flat of their palm and hand against the palm and flat hand of their partner. The gesture is often preceded verbally by the phrase ‘Give me five’ or ‘High five.’  The origins of the term are said to belong to U.S. basketball, and the use of the phrase as a noun has been part of the Oxford English Dictionary since 1980 and as a verb since 1981.

According to legend, the first high five in baseball occurred between Dusty Baker and Glenn Burke of the Los Angeles Dodgers in late 1977. This report has been challenged by Lamont Sleets, who played basketball for Murray State University and claims to be the originator of the high five in the 1960s. In the 1927 film The Jazz Singer, actor Al Jolson is seen performing ‘the low five’ in celebration of the news of a Broadway audition. The ‘low five’ had already been known in African-American Vernacular English as ‘giving skin’ or ‘slapping skin.’

A related gesture, the ‘high ten’ is commonly known as a ‘double high five.’ If one initiates a high five (or any variation thereof) by offering a hand, and no reciprocal hand appears to consummate the gesture, the initiator is said to have been ‘left hanging.’ This is considered, in social circles, to be somewhat embarrassing, or enlightening, depending on who the person is.

Another variation is professional wrestler, Diamond Dallas Page’s trademark, the ‘self high five’ and popularized throughout the Pacific Northwest as a cultural trait of the area. The action consists of raising one hand, generally the right hand and tagging it with the other. The ‘too slow’ variation of a high five occurs when one appears to be engaging in a high five initiation; however, the initiator succeeds in pulling their hand away before anyone can make contact.

The ‘windmill high five,’ immortalized in the film Top Gun, involves high fiving, and after making contact continuing the motion of the arms downwards, with the palms meeting again in a ‘six o’clock’ position for a reverse low five.

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