YOU'VE heard of giving someone the cold shoulder. How...

Salmagundi JDB

March 16, 1992

YOU'VE heard of giving someone the cold shoulder. How about giving 'em the elbow?

In a fascinating new book, "A Cultural History of the Gesture," edited by Jan Bremmer and Herman Roodenburg (Cornell University Press), Joaneath Spicer, who is curator of Renaissance and Baroque Art at the Walters Art Gallery, explains that in that great age of commissioned portraits, posing with one hand on the hip symbolized the power and wealth of those relatively few men who could afford to hire artists to paint them. The greatest philosopher of the age, Erasmus, protested "the Renaissance elbow," but rich men then as now paid no attention to philosophers.

According to the book, all gesturing was confined to the hereditary aristocracy from the 13th to the 16th centuries; then the rising middle class began to copy the aristocrats; later the working classes began to copy the middle class version of aristocratic gesturing.

Ironically, today many middle class youth in Europe and America copy the gestures of the economic and social classes below them, according to Sir Keith Thomas of Oxford. He sees this as the beginning of "a new era of gestural history and one appropriate to a more democratic era."

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FRED ALLEN is credited with this groaner: "Hanging is too good for a man who makes puns. He should be drawn and quoted."

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IT'S no surprise that the economic recession has revived skimping and saving as an art form.

Recently we received a copy of Skinflint News, a newsletter from Palm Harbor, Fla. for die-hard skinflints, each seemingly eager to outdo everyone else in saving a penny here and there, cutting down on trash and, in general, practicing good, old-fashioned frugality.

We culled the following tip from the newsletter's Readers Forum. The reader, a Pennsylvania woman, had a new idea -- new to us, at least: using clothes dryer lint to stuff an animal pillow she was making for her daughter's birthday.

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A FRIEND says he doesn't know where he is half the time. Recently he hired a taxi in St. Thomas, American Virgin Islands. The cab radio was tuned to a country-western station calling itself "Virgin Island Country." On the --, stamped and ready to be mailed to Citibank Maryland, was the driver's monthly Visa card payment.

When he got home, the friend said, his Crown Central gasoline credit card bill was waiting. It was mailed from San Antonio, Texas. The payment was to be sent to Mission, Kan. Crown, of course, is headquartered in Baltimore.

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