In Celebration of the Facepalm

The facepalm is a gesture used in many cultures as a display of frustration, embarrassment, shock, or surprise but when I use it tis usually to express frustration. The gesture has been popularized as an Internet meme based on an image of Captain Jean-Luc Picard performing the gesture in a Star Trek: The Next Generation episode.

Images of stockbrokers facepalming have been used in the media to convey the dismay associated with poor financial performance, film critics facepalm bad movies, bumbling politicians are facepalmed by pundits, the list of examples is long.

This gesture is not unique to people. A group of mandrills at the Colchester Zoo has adopted a similar gesture to signal the desire to avoid social interaction or to be left alone.

According to Oxford University Press lexicographer Susie Dent, the versatility of “facepalm” is one of the reasons why the word has been linguistically successful however whenever possible I prefer using an image.


For those moments in life when we see or hear things which are particularly ridiculous, we have the implied facepalm.