Secret handshake?
March 31, 2011 2:32 PM   Subscribe

Once in a while, I'll meet a guy and shake his hand, but it's... different. They try to lace their little finger inside my little finger (or possibly little finger and ring finger inside my little finger and ring finger, not sure). I don't let them, and just give them a "normal" handshake, which they quickly adapt to -- but it's clear that they were going for the "special" handshake. This happened again earlier this week, in a business environment, and has happened on 5 or 6 other occasions in my adult life, usually in a semi-business environment. FWIW, every single time, it's been a white male doing the weird hand shake. So WTF is this? Freemason handshake? Shriner's handshake? KKK handshake? Gay handshake? AC-DC handshake? Cthulhu handshake? What??? (Next time, I'm just going to ask, but it would have been very awkward and unprofessional this last time.)
posted by LordSludge to Human Relations (23 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
Does it sound like any of these Masonic secret handshakes to you? (Doesn't to me, but I'm never there for this stuff.)
posted by fairytale of los angeles at 2:36 PM on March 31, 2011

Phi Beta Kappa handshake?
posted by momus_window at 2:40 PM on March 31, 2011

It's a common fraternity handshake.
posted by milkrate at 2:51 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

I came here to say fraternity handshake as well. Not mine, but one I know.
posted by deezil at 2:59 PM on March 31, 2011

FWIW, I think it was also my sorority's handshake. I guess there's only so many ways to have a secret handshake!
posted by rtha at 3:10 PM on March 31, 2011

Yeah, it seems just like that Phi Beta Kappa handshake. Follow-up question, since I'm not finding it on Google: What do Phi Beta Kappas call themselves? "Kappas"? It'd be kinda fun to call them out on it.

Or is this also the handshake for other fraternities?
posted by LordSludge at 3:21 PM on March 31, 2011

I would just go with it and say something like; "The color of the day is Blue."

Use the phrase "Will no one help the widows son?" instead. Supposed to be some sort of Masonic plea to their brothers. Might be more entertaining.
posted by elendil71 at 3:35 PM on March 31, 2011 [2 favorites]

It's basically every frat's "secret" handshake. I never joined, but a bunch of my friends did and I would do that every alumni weekend just to mess with old people. Now I have my dream job and am married to the daughter of the head of Sigma Phi Fucksilon. Don't tell anyone.
posted by yerfatma at 3:40 PM on March 31, 2011 [13 favorites]

None of the PBKs I know identify particularly strongly as such, I don't think there's a slangy nickname for them. Nerds?

I find it weird that you get the handshake semi-frequently. Maybe there is another group with the same "secret" handshake - respond in kind next time and see?
posted by momus_window at 3:42 PM on March 31, 2011

I have no insights to add, except to say I've been on the receiving end of these handshakes once in a while myself. I've found them pretty off-putting, but it never occurred to me that it was a "thing." So thanks for clearing it up.
posted by adamrice at 3:45 PM on March 31, 2011

Yeah I know a lot of PBK people and none of them like... care that they're PBK, or would go around doing the secret handshake. Maybe it's important outside of grad school/job applications to some people though? On the other hand, lots of people care about their "real" fraternities. I would think it's unlikely it's a PBK thing.
posted by brainmouse at 3:59 PM on March 31, 2011 [4 favorites]

For comparison, when I was a teenager, boys used to do that because it supposedly meant "I am willing and able to fuck you." It's interesting to see how it means something different to grownups!
posted by vickyverky at 4:08 PM on March 31, 2011 [1 favorite]

This doesn't sound like the PBK handshake to me. Also, I'd be very surprised if you ran into that many PBK members who cared enough about PBK to be throwing the secret handshake around. My bet would be on a fraternity handshake.
posted by pemberkins at 4:09 PM on March 31, 2011

Fwiw, also the handshake of "brotherhood" level order of the arrow members in the boy scouts of america.
posted by TomMelee at 6:28 PM on March 31, 2011

Interesting. I'm curious if these are members of a common social group connected to someone you know. A friend or co-worker they associate with? Or if you're employed by or a member of a group they (if they are indeed members of some group) would assume association with. It'd be a very strange coincidence, otherwise. I can't think of why anyone would do this with someone randomly.
posted by empyrean at 7:24 PM on March 31, 2011

Erm, I joined Phi Beta Kappa in college and I wasn't even aware there was a handshake -- or anything to Phi Beta Kappa other than a nice, free, open bar mixer right before graduation. So...unless my alma mater was running some sort of rogue operation... I'd be very surprised if it had anything to do with PBK.

Pineapple's point was my first thought - I've had guys try to sort of stroke the inside of my palm when shaking hands. I always assumed they were trying to be saucy. Such a regrettable technique.

Masonic silliness was my second thought.
posted by artemisia at 8:20 PM on March 31, 2011

Just as a follow-up, I'd like to thank the person who invented this because if you attend some drunken get-together with a group that uses this handshake and don't do it back, you wind up with a giant gouge on the back of your hand where their pinkie nail scratches you.
posted by yerfatma at 6:40 AM on April 1, 2011

It used to be the Boy Scout handshake. Maybe your merit badge sash is confusing them? :)
posted by zerobyproxy at 10:38 AM on April 1, 2011

Am pbk. Did not know there was a not think or care much about pbk. Doubt this is pbk.
posted by jnnla at 12:33 PM on April 1, 2011

So I asked my two co-workers last night if the guy shook their hands the sekrit way, and they said no. FWIW, one is a 50-something white man, the other is a 40-something black man.

I'm in a club so secret, even I don't know about it.
posted by LordSludge at 12:46 PM on April 1, 2011 [1 favorite]

Are you 100% sure they weren't just... going for a handshake at a different angle than you, and some fingers got mashed together by accident? That seems like the most likely scenario, as opposed to people randomly secret handshaking you.
posted by brainmouse at 12:54 PM on April 1, 2011

Or maybe they curled their little fingers by mistake. Who knows. But it was accompanied, as it always is, by a hopeful facial expression followed by brief, minor disappointment as I fail to reciprocate. Pretty sure it's intentional.

Can't wait to simply call the next guy out on this. "Guys, check this out! [hold our oddly-clasped hands up and point with the other] This guy's giving me a secret handshake! The HELL does this mean?? Anybody??"

Or maybe I'll give him an authoritative, super-serious, in a lowered voice, "I'm going to need your help." and send him on a quest for some Chick Fil a.
posted by LordSludge at 3:55 PM on April 1, 2011 [3 favorites]

You probably did the right thing by declining the Grasp. It's not a responsibility to be accepted lightly.
posted by screamingnotlaughing at 8:08 PM on April 4, 2011 [1 favorite]

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