He, above the rest in shape and gesture proudly eminent, stood like a tower. --John Milton (Paradise Lost, Book I; 1667)
Evolution. 1. One of several nonverbal cues derived from body movements designed to counteract the pull of gravity. 2. An assertive gesture or posture utilizing antigravity extensor and pronator muscles. 3. Specifically, palm-down speaking gestures and dominant postures of the high-stand display.
Usage: We accent our words with authoritative palm-down cues, and show we mean business by squaring our shoulders, lifting our faces and chins, and visibly standing tall. Around the world, antigravity signs are featured in business, government, and military wear (see BUSINESS SUIT).
Paleontology. Fossils of the oldest known North-American amphibian, Hynerpeton bassetti (365 m.y.a.), show that its hands and arms were strong enough to do a pushup akin to the aggressive press-up posture of today's lizards, basilisks, and iguanas. Hynerpeton's jointed elbows might have permitted the animal to extend its forelegs in what would have been Nonverbal World's first high-stand display. A mobile shoulder girdle and muscular forelimbs would have enabled Hynerpeton to lift its body higher above the earthly plain, to dominate, command respect, and "take charge."
Neuro-notes. Our body's innate ability to show a superior, confident, and haughty attitude through postures engineered to withstand gravity's force--i.e., to assume a higher or lower stance upon the earthly plain--evolved from paleocircuits of the amphibian brain. Antigravity extensor muscles of the neck, trunk, arms, and legs contract when signals are received from cerebellar and vestibular centers responding topontine reticular nuclei. The latter brain-stem circuits may be excited by emotional stimuli from the limbic system.
See also BROADSIDE DISPLAY.
Photo of double-crested basilisk (Basiliscus plumifrons; Costa Rica; picture copyright by Gail Melville Shumway)