Ban clapping? What a load of claptrap
The millennials who are too sensitive for a bit of happy-clappy need a tight klap
In about 1440, Geoffrey the Grammarian, a friar from Lynn in Norfolk, wrote a children’s dictionary in Latin and English.
His definition of “strepitus” was “clappe or grete dynne”. Geoffrey, who described himself as “reclusum” – a quiet, retiring sort who didn’t leave his cell without permission from a bishop – must have been particularly sensitive to dins great and small.
Geoffrey, were he writing books for the benefit of the young today, might have some sympathy with the students of the University of Manchester who have banned clapping at the students’ union. Clapping and whooping, reported The Mancunion, will be replaced with “jazz hands” – the British Sign Language clapping equivalent.
The union’s liberation and access officer argued the noise of applause was triggering to those with anxiety or sensory issues and that a silent show of support was more inclusive.
The decision has been met with a roar – ready the ear mufflers! – of social media derision. Rarely has “snowflake” – falling silently, melting softly – seemed so appropriate.
Mothers of children with autism and students suffering depression or anxiety rallied to the clapping cause. One tweeter confessed her own struggles with mental health and then wrote of the “euphoria” of clapping and cheering. Three cheers to that.
If students can’t cope with a bit of happy-clappy in the union, what hope for their resilience in the face of finals, dissertation deadlines and the professor who holds an essay at an arm’s length and sneers: “Have you considered journalism?”
I like the rituals of clapping. The moment of suspense – “And will you all now put your hands together for ...” – as a star speaker strides from the wings.
The nervy, cathartic round of applause for the pilot who kisses the runway after flying through a fog and gale. The ecstatic togetherness of clapping, like a flock of starlings taking wing, as an audience gives a spontaneous standing ovation. (Spare us, though, from clapping after every high note, grand jeté and clash of cymbals. There is much to be said for delayed clapification.)
Few sounds are so wet and dispiriting as the polite one-handed clap with a champagne glass after a may-I-just-say-a-few-words at a cocktail party. If you’re going to clap, grip your glass between your knees and go for it.
Golfer Tiger Woods, celebrating his first title win in five years last month, was struck by the “fevered pitch” of the noise from the crowd. “I guess it’s different now,” said Woods, “because the art of clapping is gone, right? You can’t clap when you’ve got a cellphone in your hand! So people yell, and they were yelling. They’re going to be hoarse.”
Clapping is besieged on both sides: from the vulgar whoop at one extreme, and the mute jazz-hand waggle at the other. The wolf-whistle, the “Brava, Brava!”, the “woo-hoo!” from the gods are really more about the applauder than the applauded. Enough from the soprano, now let’s hear from seat 25G.
Clapping is an act of generosity. We give someone a big hand. In Shakespeare’s Henry V, the king’s subjects wait on the shore to cheer Henry as he sails from Calais: “Men, Wives, and Boyes, Whose shouts and claps out-voyce the deep-mouth’d Sea.” Can you imagine Henry’s face arriving at a beach of loyal jazz hands?
– © The Daily Telegraph