Eyebrow linguistics

Dr Jarlath O’Donohoe

There’s more to language than the words that we say. Our learners are still wearing masks most of the time and gauging the mood of the lecture theatre is occasionally challenging. I was wondering why people were looking at me like I was crazy – it was the eyebrows. When Ugandans raise their eyebrows (at least in this part of Uganda) they mean “yes, definitely” (or “you can take it to the bank” as one of the Americans staying in the guest house with us put it). I saw it as an expression of doubt or enquiry so I was repeating the questions and getting more and more eye brow waggling. The manager of the guesthouse has a degree in applied linguistics but does not have a technical term for this.

Here I am, learning how to read people’s eyebrow talk