The Past is Behind. The Future is Ahead

  • Description of motion:  Hand moves from left to right.  Fingers start open, but as they move, pinch together, typically with the thumb, pointer and ring finger.  
  • Example:  "When we started going out it was really nice, but all that quickly ended."
  • Example 2:  "He just wouldn't shut up, but eventually he stopped talking."
  • Use: Explains narrative event coming to an end.
  • Metaphor:  The past is behind.  The future is ahead.  (This is transposed in gesture as: The past is left.  The future is right.  Note:  Left/Right is the person's left/right who is making the gesture.)  
  • Explanation: The two fingers moving through space from left (the past) to right (closer to the present) creates two lines that end in a singular point as they pinch together.  This pinching implies an end, as the act of pinching also creates "ends".  Also the singularity of a point, such as on a graph, is another ending to the motion of the line.  Another possible explanation is that the gesture mimics a decrescendo of sound down to the point of silence.  A third possible explanation in relation to "stop talking" is the anthropomorfication of the hand itself.  The fingers could be the jaws of the skull, and the pinching together could be the jaws closing.  In this case, the action of "stop talking" the pinching of the hand, is moving linearly through time/space and ends at a specific point.
  • Origin: We think of ourselves as an object moving through space.  We then imagine this is how time works.  We remember things that have happened before and imagine they are "behind us" and that we are "moving into the future".  The arc of time ending in a single point can be rooted in simple physical actions, such as throwing a rock.  We watch the rock move through space in an arc that then abruptly ends when it hits the ground in its end point.  We then can imagine ourselves moving through time this way as well.