The “Secret” Language of Fans
One of the things I absolutely love about the Victorian period is their fashion accessories, especially the fan and the parasol. Consequently, you’ll find that I mention both of these items frequently in my books. While the parasol was necessary as a sunshade, its size prohibited further use beyond that of style (unless, of course, it was used in extreme circumstances as a weapon ). A fan, however, due to its compact structure and frequent deployment due to uneven temperatures or even olfactory issues, served many purposes. In some instances, a fan could be decorated with jewels much like a necklace, in others it could be a means to make a simple political statement. In THE SEDUCTION OF A DUKE, fans were used to communicate unspoken sentiments across a room.
Here’s my question – if there truly existed an unspoken language based on the positioning of the fan on one’s person that was understood by both the sender of the message and the receiver – could it be a secret language? Wouldn’t both men and women have to be knowledgeable of the meanings? And if these signals were flashed in a public venue, wouldn’t all and sundry know what’s up? And, quite honestly, wouldn’t some of these gestures look a little ridiculous?
I think the “secret” language of fans is really a matter of understanding and interpreting body language and gestures. Just like a skilled poker player learns a person’s “tells”, so can an astute observer interpret another’s use of the fan to discover underlying intent or emotion.
But that’s no fun! I’m reproducing here the secret language of fans that I uncovered in researching my scene in THE SEDUCTION OF A DUKE whereby the heroine and her rival participate in a silent battle of fan gestures to tell the other to back off. This is compiled from multiple sources, thus you’ll note that several gestures are interpreted differently – adding to the fan language confusion.
See if you can determine what was “really” said in that unspoken battle in THE SEDUCTION OF A DUKE.
The fan placed near the heart: “You have won my love.”
Resting the fan on the heart. “My love for you is breaking my heart.”
A closed fan touched to the right eye: “When may I be allowed to see you?”
Letting the fan rest on the right cheek: “Yes.”
Letting the fan rest on the left cheek: “No.”
Fan held over left ear: “I wish to get rid of you.”
Covering the left ear with an open fan: “Do not betray our secret.”
Fan opened wide: “Wait for me.”
Touching the finger to the tip of the fan: “I wish to speak with you.”
Half-opened fan pressed to the lips: “You may kiss me.”
Putting the fan handle to the lips: “Kiss me.”
Resting the fan on her lips: “I don’t trust you.”
Opening and closing the fan rapidly: “You are cruel”
Quickly and impetuously closing the fan: “I’m jealous.”
Drawing the fan through the hand: “I hate you!”
Fanning slowly: “I am married.”
Fanning quickly. “I am engaged.”
Hands clasped together holding an open fan: “Forgive me.”
Hiding the eyes behind an open fan: “I love you.”
Drawing the fan across the cheek: “I love you.”
Hitting her hand’s palm: “Love me.”
Hitting any object: “I’m impatient.”
Dropping the fan: “We will be friends.”
Dropping the fan: “I belong to you.”
Half-opening the fan over the face: “We are being watched.”
Twirling the fan in the left hand: “We are being watched.”
Twirling the fan in the right hand: “I love another.”
Passing the fan from hand to hand: “I see that you are looking at another woman.”