Did He Shake or Nod His Head?

Posted by on Oct 10, 2012 in Language usage | Comments Off on Did He Shake or Nod His Head?

In Western nations, shaking one’s head means “no.” As in, “When the detective asked if he did it, he couldn’t speak because his jaw was broken. So he shook his head, no.”

“He nodded his head in affirmation.”

I’m posting this because I’ve noticed in several books (fiction) that authors are confused about what shaking and nodding mean. So we have sentences like this: “He shook his head, then said,’yes.’” Such a thing would only happen in Bulgaria, where shaking and nodding have opposite meaning from the Western world.

I’ve overheard otherwise intelligent English-speaking people misuse the term when talking. This is not so blatant as the misuse of I, as in “He gave it to I,” but let’s not denigrate the language any more than is being done by our less literate countrymen. Nod if you agree.