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Flirting behavior varies across cultures due to different modes of social etiquette, such as how closely people should stand (proxemics), how long to hold eye contact, how much touching is appropriate and so forth. For example, ethologist Irenäus Eibl-Eibesfeldt found that in places as different as Africa and North America, women exhibit similar flirting behavior, such as a prolonged stare followed by a head tilt away with a little smile. The Oxford English Dictionary (first edition) associates it with such onomatopoeic words as flit and flick, emphasizing a lack of seriousness; on the other hand, it has been attributed to the old French conter fleurette, which means "to (try to) seduce" by the dropping of flower petals, that is, "to speak sweet nothings".
While old-fashioned, this expression is still used in French, often mockingly, but the English gallicism to flirt has made its way and has now become an anglicism.