THE SECRET LANGUAGE OF THE HAND-HELD FAN

The use of the fan is still prevalent today, thank goodness, so we can enjoy a cool breeze no matter where we are. Its movements, position, and placement are still used as a kind of language today, as well. Ladies throughout the 19th and 20th centuries used fans to communicate in secret: to declare love, for example, as females were not permitted to speak their minds until well into the 1970s. Here are some of the more well-known gestures:

To fan quickly: intense romantic interest

To fan slowly: already married, or uninterested

To close slowly: this would mean a “yes”; opening and closing quickly meant the woman was either engaged or had a boyfriend, so the suitor had better be careful!

To close quickly: a clear “no”

From these, some of the “fan language” gets even more scandalous! For example, to open the fan halfway on one’s lips means, “you can kiss me,” while covering one’s eyes with the fan open means, “I love you.” Covering one’s face on the other hand means, “be careful, we’re being watched.”

The seductive language of the beautiful and traditional Spanish abanico is just one of many secret languages invented over time to communicate in the open without necessarily being overt.  While the fan in Spain may be seen from the outside as an antiquated artifact with no contemporary use, a visit to the peninsula will prove otherwise. The fan is still a major part of the culture – both for practical reasons, and as a subtle method of communication, especially among those in love! We love to explore the creative ways humans communicate, and the fan is just one of many that we will continue to share with you over the coming weeks and months. Stay cool this summer!

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