Shaking hands. A relic of the ancient custom of adversaries, in
treating of a truce, taking hold of the weapon-hand to ensure against
A relic of the ancient custom of women going on the knee to men of
rank and power, originally to beg mercy, afterwards to acknowledge
Taking off the hat.
A relic of the ancient custom of taking off the helmet when no
danger is nigh. A man takes off his hat to show that he dares stand
unarmed in your presence.
Discharging guns as a salute.
To show that no fear exists, and therefore no guns will be
required. This is like “burying the hatchet” (q.v
- i.e. offering to give them up, from the full persuasion of the peaceful
and friendly disposition of the person so honoured.
To express a willingness to put yourself unarmed in the power of
the person saluted, from a full persuasion of his friendly feeling.
Source: Dictionary of Phrase and Fable, E. Cobham Brewer, 1894