The Left Handshake

I’m interested in standards, the behaviors that groups adopt which on the one hand reduce the diversity while on the other add some efficiency.

Many standards are informal, possibly the majority. Consider the handshake. Why hold your hand vertically or offer the right hand? It is not hard to make up insta-theories for these choices.

lefthandshake.jpgThe boy scouts have a different standard handshake, the “Left Handshake”, which mirrors the standard handshake. If you are going to use a non-standard handshake people are going to react. “What’s up with that?”  And, secret handshakes always come with a story.

The Boy Scouts tell a delightful set of stories (imagine telling these in a hushed tone these around a campfire). “The chief of the opposing tribe appeared, flung down his shield and held out his left hand.” Or “The Ashanti Chief said to Colonel Baden-Powell: ‘No in my country the bravest of the brave shake with the left hand.’ So began the “left handshake” of the world-wide brotherhood of Scouts

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