Why can’t I snap my fingers?

3 Mar

I am unable to snap my fingers. I never really regarded this as any kind of a disadvantage. However, it has been brought to my attention that some people advocate replacing applause with finger snapping. 

When I tell people that I can’t snap my fingers, they often try to instruct me. They assume that I must just be using the wrong technique. But to no avail. The other thing I discover is that I am not alone and that other people are unable to do it.

I have been unable to find an explanation in the medical literature. I suspect that it might have something to do with the mobility of the finger joints.

4 Responses to “Why can’t I snap my fingers?”

  1. Enrique Guerra-Pujol March 3, 2017 at 3:45 pm #

    Instead of replacing applause with finger snapping, I wonder why don’t people use both forms of noise to signal their approval? I also wonder how the applause (versus foot stomping, howling, or finger snaps) became the equilibrium in the first place…

    • jecgenovese March 3, 2017 at 4:52 pm #

      The Applause entry in Wikipedia has some background:

      “The age of the custom of applauding is uncertain, but it is widespread among human cultures. The variety of its forms is limited only by the capacity for devising means of making a noise (e.g., stomping of feet or rapping of fists or hands on a table). Within each culture, however, it is usually subject to conventions.
      The ancient Romans had a set rituals at public performances to express degrees of approval: snapping the finger and thumb, clapping with the flat or hollow palm, and waving the flap of the toga. Emperor Aurelian substituted the waving of napkins (orarium) that he had distributed to the Roman people for the toga flapping.[1] In Roman theatre, at the close of the play, the chief actor called out “Valete et plaudite!”, and the audience, guided by an unofficial choregus, chanted their approval antiphonally. This was often organized and paid for.[2]
      Similarly, a claque (French for “clapping”) was an organized body of professional applauders in French theatres and opera houses who were paid by the performer(s) to create the illusion of an increased level of approval by the audience.
      In Christianity, customs of the theatre were adopted by the churches. Eusebius [3] says that Paul of Samosata encouraged the congregation to indicate approval of his preaching by waving linen cloths (οθοναις), and in the 4th and 5th centuries applause of the rhetoric of popular preachers had become an established custom. Applause in church eventually fell out of fashion, however, and partly by the influence of the quasi-religious atmosphere of the performances of Richard Wagner’s operas at the Bayreuth Festspielhaus, the reverential spirit that inspired this soon extended back to the theatre and the concert hall.”

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