There is in Ireland a universal salutation. The Nod. It’s used everywhere, I suspect that it may be falling into decline, not because it is itself unpopular but because people are growing more and more unfriendly. It may seem strange to those living in a city (even an Irish city) that when passing someone on the street I salute him, but it is true. This of course grows unfeasible in heavily populated areas, but where I live and in most non-urban regions of Ireland this was and (to a slightly lesser degree) is the norm. Most Irish Urbanites will still be familiar with this custom and many will whole-heartedly engage in it when visiting The Sticks.
This custom grew I imagine from the fact that in rural areas all of the inhabitants would know each other and I’m sure it is common in most countries. This write-up is attempting to document an important colloquial aspect of this tradition. I feel it is my duty to do this, not least because I’ve been perplexed by this strange activity from an early age, but also because I feel it may soon fall out of usage.
There are several different acceptable salutations. The Nod is the best. It is common to salute while passing on foot or by car. Here in Castleconnell Co. Limerick the most usual salutation when two people pass on foot is a vocal "Hyuh" or "Howya" which loosely translates as "How are you?". Though both parties may ask each other this, no answer is required. If you did decide to reply instead of asking, a simple grunt usually suffices. There is often an awkward moment when, while looking (head bowed) at the footpath, you must try and determine: whether or not the other person is going to speak first; what greeting is appropriate; or even if you should look up at all. Three factors are enough to evaluate this. The age, disposition and drug content of the person. All three must be determined quickly while pretending not to notice the others approach. Of course often a simple smile will suffice.
However I’ve deviated from the important topic at hand. The Nod is the answer to all your problems, including the above situation. To successfully pull off The Nod you need a particular frame of mind, a smidgen of arrogance, that certain 'I dunno what'. You must walk (though it can be done in a car) assuredly and briskly, hold your shoulders low and your arms free. Then look the person straight in the eye and rotate your head sharply about an axis perpendicular to your face, roughly 10 degrees. This must be done while winking dramatically. If correctly executed the Nodder should feel good at having acknowledged someone so completely and the Nodded should feel that they have been bestowed a great gift.
Maybe I’m reading too much into it though. *wink*