Opinion: In the wink of an eye


Commentary by Ward Degler

A friend of mine was joking around with another friend, and in the middle of it, winked at me. I knew immediately he was letting me know that I was in on the joke.

But why? What makes a wink so special? And how can it have so many different meanings?

Other than a silent conspiratorial agreement, a wink can be flirtatious. I know because when I was in second grade, Nancy Hanson looked up from her coloring book and winked at me.

The truth is, if you wink at someone they may take it to mean something completely different than what you had in mind. When Sarah Palin winked at the audience during the 2008 vice presidential debate with Joe Biden, some people were horrified. When George Bush winked at Queen Elizabeth in 2007, the room was filled with a discretionary silence.

In China, a wink is considered impolite. No one seems to know why, but maybe they just don’t want to be in on the joke.

As easy as it looks, not everyone can wink. There are many muscles and nerves that have to cooperate when winking, and not everyone is wired to accomplish this.

In Africa, adults use a wink as a signal for the children to leave the room when they are going to engage in grown-up talk with other adults. Involuntary winking can be a symptom of Tourette syndrome, a malady that causes victims to involuntarily yell or shout, and wink, of course.

Since the Internet has pretty much replaced verbal communication, it’s only fitting that the web should offer some winks. There are emojis and dozens of gifs, little split-second videos of winking. Take your pick: actors, singers, rappers, football players, bodybuilders and even puppies, cats and lizards.

Naturally, they are all in on the joke (wink-wink).