In 1926 Dr. Louis Harris, health commissioner of New York City, also railed against the shaking of hands, saying, "A person who has perspiring hands most often does the most shaking." This coincided with an effort in the U.S.S.R. to ban the handshake, which was supported by N.A. Semashko, the commissar of health, who said the act was one of the most potent means of spreading disease.
Ten years later the health commissioner of Baltimore, Dr. Huntington Williams, said people should abandon the handshake in favor of the bow, in the Japanese manner, for sanitary reasons. "It is more polite to keep your hands to yourself when greeting someone," said Williams. "The germs transfer from hand to hand."
In 1954 delegates to the International Health Conference in Scarborough, England were advised of a campaign "against the silly Western habit of shaking hands on every possible occasion." Dr. G.H. Chesney said, "We should copy the people of the East who more wisely bow in acknowledgment or who pat the brow. One third of the people in this country have infections in their hands."
Squiggy to Lenny on Laverne and Shirley: "Let's shake on it." The two start shaking their bodies violently.
In El Salvador the handclasp has been superseded by a hygienic salute. In Tierra del Fuego natives welcome strangers with a huge hug and a pat on the back while jumping up and down. Frenchmen and other continentals "kiss" each other on both cheeks. Israelites of old bowed to the ground seven times. Andaman Islanders bow and blow into one another's hands with a cooing sound. Some Indians near the Gulf of Mexico blow into each other's ears. Inhabitants of the former French colony of Dahomey twist their knuckles until they emit a loud crack. On the Banks Islands in the South Pacific men hook the middle fingers of their right hands and pull them away with a crack. The Ainu people of Japan make visitors welcome by rubbing their own palms together and stroking their beards.
In New Guinea there is a ceremonial sign of respect in which a man costumed as a "mother" rubs his buttocks against a "son's" leg. Eskimos, of course, rub noses. They are bewildered by the handshake; they believe that one person is helping another hold up a hand that has grown tired. Muslims shake hands with the palms open and touch breasts, foreheads and lips, signifying endearment in heart, thoughts and words. American Boy Scouts shake lefthanded—the hand nearest the heart—with the three middle fingers extended to the wrist.
Extending only the fingertips was considered rude by the Ashanti tribe of Africa. According to John McDowell, an assistant professor of folklore at Indiana University, as far back as the 16th century the Ashanti had a handshake and even an expression: "Five must lie within five."
In olden times, the conclusion of a Dutch beekeeper's business negotiations—ritualistic handslapping, high and low—produced the derivation of the term "striking a bargain."
Magic Johnson, Los Angeles Lakers, 1980: "I started the high five at Michigan State and other people picked up on it. If anybody else tells you they started it, they're wrong."
Lillian Eichler in The Customs of Mankind, 1924: "The correct acknowledgment of to-day is a firm, cordial handclasp or the friendly smile and inclination of the head. The flourish, finger-tipping, and high handshaking of the last generation have passed out with other affectations."