There are persons who keep jiggling their legs sitting on the chair during conversation or being interviewed. This motion is annoying and seen as the indication of the speaker’s tension, weakness to pressure, timidity, and lack of self-confidence.

We call it derogatorily ’貧乏ゆすり/ binboyusuri - poor man’s (leg) shake’ in Japanese, and were told not to jiggle legs when sitting on chair before people, even during a meal from the childhood by parents.

Kenkyusha’s English Japanese Dictionary translates ‘binboyusuri’ as ‘tap one’s foot nervously.”

When you do ‘binboyusuri’ in front of interviewer(s) while job interview in Japan, you are 150 % sure to flunk. Is this 'leg-specific motion' seen as negatively in western world too? Are there short words to express ‘Binboyusuri’ as a noun or verb, say in two words?

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    Fidgeting, though very much more general, is probably the closest. – TimLymington Sep 3 '13 at 23:10
  • Neagitvity re all forms of fidgeting exists, but is less uniform/certain. An interviewer might view this (or knuckle-cracking, both tics/habits of mine) to be a sign of nervousness, and view it negatively. Not at all certain/"150%", though. (I used to do the leg one deliberately sometimes, to help stay awake (in class, esp.)). – hunter2 Sep 4 '13 at 9:50

Fidgeting covers a wide range of nervous, almost unconscious, movements of the fingers, hands, arms and legs. It would also be used to describe what I'd call bouncing leg motion that sometimes occur while sitting down. It's not usually a sign of a medical disorder, in fact, if you make the person aware of their nervous "tic" they usually stop; until they forget, and then they'll start over again.

Nervous energy is also another term which might be the proper translation for binboyusuri

I found a few forums on this phenomenon but none had a proper "name" for this action. The Friends and family forum had a post on this condition.

When I am sitting down, I constantly "bounce" my legs, up and down vigorously, to the annoyance of my workmate next door to me as her workstation shakes madly! I also do this at home watching TV or just relaxing and I've done it ever since I can remember. I don't believe it's "restless leg syndrome" as I always sleep like a baby, although I do tend to toss and turn a bit as early morning approaches.

Men's Health has a small article on this subject, and includes a helpful tip on how to stop "jiggling" your leg.

It's probably just a nervous habit that may reduce stress or anxiety, says Raymond Miltenberger, Ph.D., director of the applied behavior analysis master's program at the University of South Florida. "Or maybe you're simply bored," he says. It may be a benign tic, but it's a highly visible one. At best, you look nervous; at worst, people will think you're about to rob a bank. To put an end to this involuntary jackhammering, Miltenberger suggests putting change or keys in your pocket. If you hear jingling, that's your cue to cross your legs, hook your foot around your chair, or stand up.

Wikipedia seems to confirm the description "bouncing leg" in its article on fidgeting.

  • Fidgeting is definitely one of the better words, but unlike most fidgeting, leg bouncing also has a reflex aspect to it, meaning leg bouncing could be the relaxed state of your muscle, though only if your leg is in position to cause the reflex (on the ball of your foot, heel in the air). Fidgeting offers a negative connotation to this, but there is probably no better word. However, there is some better advice to stop it in most cases. The reflex action is called a postural tremor, muscles fighting gravity, and planting your heel firmly on the ground will stop it. – Ryan Nov 29 '16 at 19:09

To answer your question about the negativity, as far as I know there is no explicit negativity associated with it. Of course, different words may convey a different connotation, but in general I would say the action is not seen as negative. That said, some people may see it as annoying, but I think that is a personal opinion and not the general mindset.

The word you're looking for is probably fidget, as stated earlier. Check the meaning, though, as fidget has a much wider meaning.

That said, there is the real disorder, "Restless Legs Syndrome" where people have to move their legs constantly. むずむず脚症候群

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    @Dan.Fidget may fit to “binboyusuri” in the context of an involuntary physical motion under the pressure. But ‘むずむず脚症候群-RLS’ is serious disease that accompanies chronic abnormal sensations such as creeping, frizzling and bubbling on and inside your legs. Actually my wife had suffered from RLS one time. She was unable to sleep in the night. She commuted to hospital and it took a long time to be relieved from the RLS syndrome. – Yoichi Oishi Sep 4 '13 at 1:41

I think the general term with negativity is "spazzing". To be nice about it you can ask the person if they have a nervous tic.

With a more neutral tone - leg twitch.

With a more realistic tone - impatient twitching.


Avoiding any instant medical or psychological diagnostic implications I think the phrase you are looking for is devil's tattoo.

devil's tattoo

a rapid or nervous drumming with the fingers or feet

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