Hilariously, the finger — as in the middle finger, the bird, the flip-off — has its own Wikipedia page. And it’s your day, the finger.
From the Wikipedia: The finger.
You already knew that the finger is an obscene gesture created by showing the back of the hand while extending only the middle finger upwards, and that it often connotes the phrase, “up yours.”
What you probably didn’t know is that the tradition dates back to ancient Greece, and was known as — no joke — digitus impudicus, or “impudent finger” in Roman times.
The Wikipedia speculates that the use of the finger started as a threat, since the middle finger was an archer’s bow-plucking finger, and so extending the middle finger was really just the middle-ages version of the Gilbert Arenas trigger-thumb.
The entry also includes a rundown of similarly obscene hand gestures in other cultures, which is a handy thing to know if you’re traveling. For example, DO NOT flash the two-finger, back of the hand V-sign to people in most other English-speaking countries, because they do not think it means “peace.” This means you, Justin Bieber.
What the Wikipedia does not include, unfortunately, is a list of popular middle-finger delivery styles.
So I’ll provide a few on my own. If anyone wants to add these to the Wikipedia, you know, go to town.
1.) The “Right Here, Buddy”: This is the method Rex Ryan chose, and probably the most widely used variety of the middle finger. It is by nature dismissive, as if to suggest that the provider has something to lord over its recipient. In Ryan’s case, it almost certainly came in response to some heckling, as if to say, “I got your fat joke right here, buddy. I just coached a team to the AFC Championship, and I’m about to eat more bacon than you can possibly conceive.”
2.) The Maniacal Double: This is my favorite, especially while driving. I think in New York the finger gets bandied about so liberally that it almost loses its meaning, so I like to bring it back by adding a little flair. Next time someone cuts you off or does some bad-driving move that prompts your road rage, drive up next to them, widen your eyes as far as they’ll go, and wave both middle fingers around in the air at them. The driver will almost certainly be terrified enough to think twice next time he or she is about to do something stupid and/or dangerous on the road.
NOTE: It is crucial that your tires be properly aligned before you attempt the Maniacal Double. And yes, I know that it is hypocritical to respond to a dangerous or dumb instance of driving with something at least as dangerous and dumb. But wait ’til you see the look on that guy’s face.
3.) The Clever Guy: This category includes all middle-finger techniques popular in late elementary school, including holding up the index, middle and ring fingers and instructing recipients to “read between the lines” and pretending your hand has a little crank attached to it and using your off hand to ratchet up the middle finger. These methods were hilarious in elementary school, but have lost their luster with time. Avoid these methods.
4.) The Emphatic Thrust-Bird: OK, I just made that name up (which I guess makes sense, since I’m making all these up). But sometimes you really, really need to give someone the finger, and you’re concerned that the regular old finger just isn’t strong enough. That’s what this is for. It’s actually a combination of two-to-three obscene gestures, depending on your definition of obscenity, and it really drives home how emphatically you want to let the recipient know how you feel.
Here’s what you do: Keep both feet planted with your weight distributed evenly and knees slightly bent. With your left hand, slap your right bicep as you swing your right hand up, simultaneously extending your middle finger. This combines the classic French bras d’honneur — recognizable from Spaceballs, of course — with the time-honored middle finger. As you’re doing it, ever so slightly thrust your pelvis forward. That’ll show ’em.
There’s the one my nieces like — “oh, I have a present for you,” and then they pull it out of their pocket. I expect this falls into the clever category, but it kills me every time.
The thing I’ve never understood is that there seem to be two camps of people — those who hold up their middle finger while also extending their thumb, and those who hold up their middle finger alone.
What’s the point of extending the thumb? Does it make it less lewd (perhaps a vestige of childhood guilt)? Does it have something to do with tendon length? Will we ever know the true answer to this question?
Personally, I’m a no-thumber.
Good question. This is a weird memory, but I can actually remember practicing the middle finger when I was probably 6 or 7 years old in the bathroom in my parents’ house. I know I was that young because we renovated when I was in 2nd grade and did away with that bathroom. Anyway, I remember that it was actually difficult at first to extend just the one finger without the rest. So maybe the extended thumbs have to do with comfort. No idea.
I definitely go tucked in thumbs now though. Thumbs out looks too much like the “hang loose” sign.
This is great.
I’ve been using the bras d’finger for a while now. It really startles people when you do it in traffic.
and then when you careening into the side of their car.