An injured football player being carried off the field cannot speak as loudly with his voice as he can with two raised thumbs, a universal symbol for everything from "I'm OK" to "We shall overcome."
The former president notwithstanding, our gestures probably do reflect our words nearly all the time, as the research suggests, because the two "modalities" are so interconnected.
But sometimes, even when the two don't match, the meaning is inescapable.
Quite a few years ago, the Dallas Cowboys were getting trounced during "Monday Night Football," and the game was so lopsided that the cameramen were searching the crowd for some fitting symbol of defeat. One camera slowly zoomed in on a lone Cowboy fan, way up in the cheap seats, seemingly faithful to the end.
But as the camera closed in, the fan slowly raised one finger in the universal sign of disdain.
Dead silence in the broadcast booth until Don Meredith, the former Cowboy ace and a commentator on the broadcast, drawled, "That's right, folks. Dallas will always be No. 1 in the eyes of her fans."
No words necessary. There's no doubt about what the fan was really saying, Dandy Don notwithstanding.