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Did You Know a Mormon Hawaiian Came Up with the Hang Loose Sign?

The shaka, a friendly hand gesture commonly used by surfers and BYU fans alike, didn't start out as a sign meant for either group.

The gesture, made by extending the thumb and pinky and loosely curling the middle three fingers into the palm, was originally used to communicate to train conductors and was invented by a Latter-day Saint. 

According to a recent BYU Magazine article, the shaka most likely originated from LDS member and Laie, Hawaii, native Hamana Kalili. Kalili lost the three middle fingers on his right hand while he was working at the Kahuku Sugar Mill on Oahu. When he was assigned to work on the railroad that transported sugar cane, he would raise his right hand, with only his pinky and thumb, to let the train conductor know the railroad was clear. 

Locals began adopting the sign, but the shaka really began to get exposure at hukilaus or feasts where Kalili would dress as King Kamehameha and welcome island visitors.

From there, the shaka's popularity grew among surfers and eventually became a gesture used by people around the world. 

Today, the shaka has a list of meanings including "hang loose" and "all clear." But BYU fans know the shaka as something else. 

Resembling a "Y," the gesture is also used as a way to represent support for BYU. 

Though the shaka began as a gesture used by one man, its legacy has now stretched beyond its original meaning to become an iconic symbol for many. 

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