Knocking on the Table

I’ve been listening to Deutsche Welle Radio a lot lately, and today they had a quiz on their “Cool” culture show: “When a group of people are sitting around a table in Germany and start knocking on the table, what does that mean?”

This is, of course, easy to answer for me, but I think it’s a really interesting issue. I remember that when I was in the Sekundarstufe I (middle school, grades 7-10), we generally clapped after someone’s talk. Then I went to the US as a high school exchange student in grade 11, and there we clapped. But after I came back for 12th and 13th grade in Sekundarstufe II (high school), students knocked on the table.

I was originally very confused, but I liked it. It somehow seems more dignified than clapping, you can do it longer without having your hands hurt, and it can be done with just one hand. When I then started college and later graduate school in the US, of course I had to learn to applaud again.

I’m still tempted to somehow introduce knocking on the table to the US — I just like it so much better — but I doubt I will succeed. Anyway, after hearing about the quiz above on the radio, I searched a bit on Google, and I found an interesting collection of responses from linguists.

On a not necessarily related note, I passed my Ph.D. qualification exam and have now completed all preliminaries for Ph.D. candidacy. Knock knock knock :)

About Mathias

Software development engineer. Principal developer of DrJava. Recent Ph.D. graduate from the Department of Computer Science at Rice University.
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