Don’t blink or you’ll wink!

By Nancy Black

Actor David Niven had a famous wink.
Photo courtesy of MGM

I never used to do it. At least I don’t think I did. It must be something that happens with age — winking at people. So, I must be getting old because, during the holidays, I caught myself winking at someone.

I wasn’t flirting. I wasn’t responding to a shared secret with a friend by making that clicking sound with mouth while firing an invisible gun at the same time with my hand as I closed my right eye lid. And I didn’t have anything in my eye. I was winking. At a person. It just happened.

Back in my childhood, I would have looked up “winking” in the Encyclopedia Britannica — that is, if I could find the “U-V-W” volume in our house’s bookcase. These days, I just let my fingers do the walking on my computer’s keyboard all the way to Wikipedia, the free, online encyclopedia. According to the website, “a wink is a facial expression made by briefly closing one eye … However, the meaning is often dependent on the situation where the expression was made and the relationship of the interlocutors.”

Interlocutors? Now that’s a new word in my world! I learned during my intensive research about winking that it means “a person who takes part in a dialogue or conversation.” 

And here I considered myself educated. 

I also learned: a typical “use of the wink” is to quietly send a message that third parties are not aware of, that not all humans can wink, and that in Australia winking is considered improper. Who knew?

I’m not sure why I did it. And I’m not sure I want to do it again. I guess it will depend on who my fellow interlocutor is. Or whether or not I’m in Australia!

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