Leonard Nimoy, who played Commander Spock, created the Spock’s Vulcan salute and Spock’s Vulcan “nerve pinch.”
In “Amok Time,” Nimoy presents the Vulcan salute when Spock comes into contact with the matriarch of his home planet, Vulcan. The salute is done with the open hand. The palm is towards the person being greeted. The forefinger and the middle finger are put together, as are the little finger and the ring finger.
Though, a space separates the two pairs of fingers. Nimoy said he got the salute on a gesture that Jewish priests did as they blessed the synagogue’s congregation in an orthodox High Holy Days service he’d had gone to as a boy.
The gesture is the Hebrew letter shin, the first letter of Shekinah, the name of the feminine part of Divinity, which goes into the synagogue during part of the ceremony. Nimoy’s salute is usually accompanied by the verbal greeting, “Live long and prosper.,” similar to the Hebrew expression Shalom aleichem, meaning “peace be upon you.”
Nimoy also created the Vulcan nerve pinch, a method in which pinching a nerve in the shoulder and neck Spock can make a human unconscious. The 1966 episode “The Enemy Within” was for Spock to come out from behind a generator and knock his opponent out. Believing fisticuffs were more suited to the Old West than the 23rd Century, Nimoy instead used the famous pinch that would become a brand of the Vulcan’s fighting style.
He accredits director Leo Penn’s approval of the pinch partly to William Shatner’s acting ability. After listening to Nimoy talking to the director about using the technique, Shatner offered to help Nimoy demonstrate the pinch, and Shatner did such a good job of passing out on cue that Penn was sold on the maneuver’s merit.