Photo: AP

Error-prone New York Times reporter Alessandra Stanley has spotted a novel and inscrutable hand gesture where one places their hand over their heart. It is popular in particular amongst politicians, usually the last to become aware of national trends. Stanley has observed Chelsea Clinton doing it, Michelle Obama doing it, but, most of all, Hillary Clinton doing it all the time.

But why? Do their hearts hurt? Are their palms too moist?

Language experts Stanley spoke with for her article, published Friday, told her it is supposed to communicate “a subliminal message of sincerity” that might also be “contrived.” One source, a democratic pollster, tells Stanley that female politicians in particular are enjoying the craze because it’s “a way of showing emotion without crying.” Just wildly speculating here, but now that this exotic hand gesture has caught on we should expect to see fewer of this country’s most powerful women crying in public.

Stanley also knows that the gesture signals respect or possibly a greeting in parts of Asia and the Middle East. Perhaps this is a clue.

“It’s possible Mrs. Clinton picked it up while traveling as secretary of state,” Stanley muses.

This seems unlikely, but is it inaccurate? Stanley has been called out many times for taking liberties in articles, the kind that precipitate retractions. An article she wrote on Peter Jennings, for instance, was amended with 19 corrections.

This time, we may not ever get the truth. “The Clinton campaign,” Stanley writes, “did not return calls asking for comment.”