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Published: Sunday, 8/10/2014


Hand up for hygiene

The origin of the fist bump as a greeting is uncertain. It has been around for a long time and seems to have evolved from sports. But it wasn’t until Barack Obama went on stage in St. Paul, Minn., in June, 2008, to clinch his party’s presidential nomination and fist-bumped Michele Obama that the gesture entered national consciousness.

The Washington Post called it “the fist bump heard ’round the world.” Maybe, but polite society did more head shaking than fist bumping, and went on shaking hands in the traditional way.

Perhaps socially conservative people should get with the times. The fist bump — sometimes called a dap — is a more hygienic form of greeting than shaking hands, a new study suggests.

Professor David Whitworth of Aberystwyth University in Wales and a student shook hands, fist-bumped, and high-fived each other dozens of times, then measured how much bacteria they transferred. The results showed the fist bump spreads one-twentieth the amount of bacteria that a handshake does.

A high-five passes along less than half the amount of bacteria of a handshake. The fist bump and the high-five apparently involve a smaller surface area in contact between two hands.

The handshake has an ancient history. Knights are said to have offered a hand in greeting as a sign that they were not carrying a weapon.

It would be sad if that tradition died. On the other hand, medieval times were not the most sanitary.

If polite society decides to change, the question becomes: Will a man be judged on the firmness of his fist bump?

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