A frequently asked question within the field of body language is, "What specific emotion or thought is meant by this or that body language signal(s)? It is not always a straightforward answer. One primary axiom of nonverbal communication is that many (but not all) body language signs often have wholly different meanings depending on the other nonverbal signals with which they are clustered. A nonverbal "Cluster" occurs when two or more body language configurations happen simultaneously or within a very short period of time. Reading these nonverbal sentences (clusters) is absolutely paramount for accurate interpretations. Focusing on only one sign - and the error of monolithic interpretation - is a rookie's mistake.
A homonym - in both spoken and written languages, is one of a group words that is spelled identically and pronounced the same, however it has different meanings. For example, it's always "hot" outside in Las Vegas in August, a peperoncini can also be "hot", we may call Kaley Cuoco "hot" – and the subject of the Obamacare Website has been a “hot” one for several months now. Here we see four completely different meanings of the word “hot” – and yet one has no difficulty discerning the exact meaning of the word in the context of the other words in the sentence. An analog of this curiosity is seen in body language as well. An identical nonverbal symbol (or a very subtle variation) can have a completely different meaning depending on the setting - or the other "words" in the body language sentence.
There are many examples of Nonverbal Homonyms. One common case in point is the "Tongue in Cheek". In the image above, University of Alabama's football coach, Nick Saban can be seen with his configuration. A tongue in cheek signal may indicate "I just won", "I gotcha" (you were caught), sadness/grief, anger, projecting sexuality, or even deception. Noticing the other nonverbals in the “body language sentence” gives the tongue and cheek a context and thus can entirely change its meaning. Therefor when reading any article or book on nonverbal communication or listening to an “expert”, it is wise to always take this phenomenon into account.
Tongue in cheek displays tend to be displayed one side in the context an alpha/positive scenario (e.g. sexual context, I gotcha/I just won/you were caught, an outright alpha display) and on the opposite side if the meaning is beta/negative (e.g. sadness, lying, anger). These right vs. left sided tongue in cheek biases are idiosyncratic to the person and should be normed with this in mind.
Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2434: Brad Pitt's Tongue-in-Cheek regarding Reasons for Choosing to Work on "World War Z"
Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2352: Mila Kunis' Tongue in Cheek Graham Norton Part II
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2554: Harry Reid's Body Language Lets Us Know What He's Thinking - Short Term Debt Limit Hike
Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2233: Body Language, President Obama, 20 Children and the Tongue-in-Cheek
Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2085: Dina Eastwood - Tongue-in-Cheek Variant
Nonverbal Communication Analysis # 2093: Ann Curry's Tearful Goodbye - Matt Lauer's Classic "Tongue-in-Cheek" and Duplicitous Smile
Nonverbal Communication Analysis No. 2664: Anchorman 2 Cast on Graham Norton - A Body Language Signal of Embarrassment