Thursday, January 5, 2017

Creative title needed for previously unnamed "old-man walk"

Look at these photos and tell me what it should be called
Randall, me and Micah on Steele Street in Tacoma. I have since discovered that I am holding my hands incorrectly. 
What do you call it when people walk with their hands clasped behind their backs? Although everyone has seen someone do it—maybe you’ve even done it yourself—this form of perambulation apparently has no name. And now, it is up to you to help me name it.

Proper hand position demonstrated
by an unknown Italian in Padova.
I called it the old-man walk in my book manuscript, and my editor suggested that name is too vanilla and lacks punch. I gave it that plain title after noting that men of a certain age in Italy often walked with hands joined behind their backs. I’ve since had other people point out that old people in other European countries as well as China, India and Japan also walk this way, so it is probably pretty universal.

My editor gave a few examples, but none of them fit: old man waddle, duck stroll, old dude swagger. I admit that walk is boring and non-specific, but the fact is, the essence of the old-man walk is in the position of the arms and not the gait, so most synonyms for walk just aren’t accurate. It’s not a waddle, swagger, shuffle, march, hike, amble, saunter, tramp or stride. It’s just a normal walk, with hands clasped behind—and there is no one-word term for hands behind the back.

But, wait, doesn’t Google have the answer? After nearly an hour of reading about walking, hand positions, body language and racism (hard to read any online forums without this topic coming up), I learned that there is no name for this type of walking, and that people everywhere are curious about why some people—mostly older people—do it.

Reasons given by those who like to walk this way include: It helps me balance. It’s easier on my back. It helps me think. Other people suggested it signifies dignity, control, power and quiet confidence. An article in said, ‟The reason this can be powerful is that it exposes the most vulnerable part of the body. Only supremely confident people will place their hands behind their backs in that way. You often see principals or teachers do this as they walk up and down rows of students’ desks during tests.”

Prince Charles at a London train station.
The British news magazine Daily Mail wrote: ‟To beat back pain, walk like a royal. For perfect posture, interlink your fingers from each hand behind your back, just like Prince Charles does. This will open up your chest and get your shoulders back and down, reversing the slumping posture many people have while sitting.”

The website Lonerwolf first explains that hands-behind-back is the total opposite of crossing one’s arms over the chest because it ‟exposes the vulnerable chest with its vital organs, stomach, crotch and neck in an attempt to demonstrate fearlessness, superiority and self confidence.” Be careful, the site goes on to add, because there is also a wrong way: ‟If, however, the person doesn’t have their palms over their hand, but instead grips their wrist with the other hand behind their back, it says something completely different. Instead, it displays frustration and self control, as if refraining themselves from using that gripped hand to punch or slap someone.”

An example of proper form.
Okay, getting back to my original problem, what name should I use in my manuscript? I need help. I should digress briefly to mention that a primary school in Great Britain made a rule last year that students must walk in straight lines in hallways with hands clasped behind their backs. The head teacher called it ‟the university walk,” in an attempt to give it an important-sounding name. Parents revolted, pointing out that it made the school seem more like a prison than a school, and many questioned the name because they didn’t see university students walking that way. The head teacher has since resigned and the new school boss dropped the rule. So please, that name has been rejected and is off limits.

I will take nominations for a few weeks, and then I’ll put a survey up. You can nominate terms by making a comment on the blog, my Facebook page or messaging me at Here are a few nominations to get the ball rolling:
Pensioners perambulation
Geezers gait
Old dude swagger (one of my editor’s ideas)
Cock stroll (found this on a forum)

I’m waiting to hear from you.