Definition: High Five

12 06 2008

Well not sure if this is strictly a “definition”, but close enough.

Giving a high five is a very subtle art form, one that is perfected through regular practice. You can’t be good at something if you don’t practice it, and high fives are no exception.

To request a high five, simply raise the palm of your hand in the air, facing towards the person whom you are requesting it from. If they accept your request, they will raise theirs in turn towards yours and basically clap your hand in the air. The term “high five” is therefore made up of the altitude of the palm – “high” and the amount of fingers used – “five”. And before you ask, I have no idea if a person who had a finger amputated still is able to give high fives of if they would be called high fours.

The sign of a good high five is the resounding slap sound that occurs when both hands meet at speed. This occurs for a few reasons:

  • The person requesting the high five, upon seeing that another person is about to accept their request, pulls his hand back and thrusts it forward at the correct time, thereby doubling the force and thus the sound.
  • The person giving the high five slaps your hand so hard that there cannot be anything but a huge sound. Also, your hand will probably be red for a few minutes afterwards.
  • You manage to catch the other person’s hand in just the right way with just the right cupping/straight hand ratio. I have no idea what this ratio is, but you will probably find the ideal amount to cup your hand / keep your hand straight through experimentation.

Now, if a bad high five is given, you will know it by the small, feeble sound or possibly the lack of sound entirely. Not to be sexist here, I’m just stating the facts as I have observed them, but from my experience women seem to give worse high fives than guys do. Possibly it is just more in the male culture to give high fives as a physical way of showing affection or approval. In other words, it just comes more naturally to guys than to girls. Or not.

When to request high fives: when you have just said or done something that you thought was especially clever or witty, and there seems to be moderate support for this in your circle of friends. By asking for a high five from the person who seems to most support your action, it is possible to increase support for the action from the rest of the group. It is bad etiquette to request a high five when nobody else in the group supports you, and this will probably lead to you being shunned by the group. Although a requested high five counts for less than an offered high five, it is still a good feeling to get a high five.

When to offer high fives: although a high five can be requested at any time, there are certain situations which really call for it. Ideally, when in a large group of friends and you say something that gets a laugh, somebody will offer you a high five by raising their hand towards you. By being given a high five like this you are under obligation to approve the request, because by offering it they are supporting you and to deny their offer is just plain rude. To offer a high five, simply raise your hand towards the person and they should respond appropriately.

When to grant/offer high five requests: When somebody has said or done something that you think was especially awesome or worthy of praise. If they are not requesting one, you may offer them a high five, but only if you truly believed that the action deserved it.

Of course, not all high five requests are successful. When somebody requests a high five, for whatever reason, and nobody present feels that it is worth a high five, the original requester is said to have been “left hanging” IE they stand around with their hand up for a while before they start to feel stupid and put it down. This is considered very rude in most situations, but is appropriate when the original request for a high five was simply not deserving enough to earn a high five.

There are many variations of the standard high five. These include:

  • Gimme Five, which is similar, but the hand can be anywhere.
  • Air Five, where the participants are too far to physically touch, but the gesture is made all the same. When giving air fives, it is important to simulate having the hand actually touched, IE moving it backward a little.
  • Top-Gun High Five (aka the Flipside and the Windmill), where the participants high five as normal and then continue the trajectory in a windmill motion to meet hands again at a lower level. Made famous in the movie Top Gun. Also used in How I Met Your Mother season 1, episode 10 – The Pineapple Incident.
  • Extreme High Five, when spins, jumps, kicks, cartwheels etc. are added to transform a “regular” High Five into an “EXTREME” High Five.
  • Phone Five, when talking on the phone, you request a Phone Five and then slap the phone’s microphone. As seen in How I Met Your Mother season 1, episode 1 – Pilot.
  • For other variations, watch How I Met Your Mother and read this article.



One response

13 06 2008

And Scrubs! Todd could ‘five’ almost anywhere!
The best high fives I get – he’s 14 months and adorable! They don’t make a great sound, but they’re given with enthusiasm!
But then I am a girl! 😉

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