Thursday, September 13, 2012

the wave

My plan is to ask my Linguistics students, mostly American, if they know anything about the Wave. The Wave is an audience event at football games; almost everyone in North America knows it. Actually, I'm not sure if everyone knows it (not everyone goes to sporting events), and, I'm not sure how well it's known outside the US (it so happens that I have one Italian, one Australian and one African in the class; but, to protect their privacy, I probably won't tell you what happens tomorrow).

OK, here's the deal. The Wave started in Canada in the Wayne Gretzky era, so they say, the 70's and 80's (in fact it is claimed also by Mexicans who say they did it back then, and also fans of a guy at the Univ. of Washington); then, when the World Cup came to Mexico, in 1986, people did the Wave, quite visibly, and the rest of the world noticed. From then they called it "the Mexican Wave" although it could be said that it had already had a pretty robust life in North America and other places as well, regardless of where it may have started.

The Wave is a cultural event that most people have experienced in a circular stadium, in which some people start waving and then pretty soon, everyone, starting here and going all the way around the stadium and back to here, makes the wave (motions with their hands and bodies) so that it looks like a wave is literally passing through the stadium.

The heck of it is, it is generally clockwise, here, in North America, I believe. I'm not sure if it's always clockwise; in fact, I'm pretty sure it's not always clockwise. But it's usually clockwise. Don't you agree? I'm honestly trying to get a lot of opinions here. If you disagree I really want to hear it.

OK, now, when the Olympics came to Sydney Australis, sure enough, they did the Wave, and this time, it was counterclockwise. Wikipedia has not found an adequate reference for this. They say that in Melbourne, Australia, it is generally counterclockwise. They also have no proof of this. I cannot seem to verify this. And I really want to know.

I'm into human behavior. I like to watch how people leave a stadium, too, or how they walk down a busy street. I'll give you a clue: in the US, you stick to the right. In some places, like Korea, you stick to the left. In the UK you do as you wish. In some places you do not bump into people...

But I guess my question is this: are we in tune, to any degree, to natural forces that would account for this kind of thing? We are, after all, on a spinning earth. That earth will send the water down the drain in a certain direction; would it do the same to us in a random cultural expression? Good question.

One more question: Why is this appearing in a blog that has always been devoted to language and language learning? Because languages are the ultimate in mass, coordinated social behavior, I guess. Yes, I admit it, I'm not sure why I put it here...just seems, we might want to know.

Metallica Concert, Brisbane, AUSTRALIA
Muse, Uprising, Melbourne AUSTRALIA
The wave (audience), Wikipedia



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