Admit it-you’ve given someone the middle finger before. Maybe they were looking, maybe they weren’t, but it happened. Did you ever stop to think about where this lewd gesture started and how it such a taboo reputation? If you’ve ever caught yourself wondering about the fierce middle finger, read on to find out how it came to be!
The Middle Finger Gesture Origin
Dating back to ancient times in Greece (and also in Rome), the middle finger was raised when someone wanted to show a sign of disrespect (much like today). However, back then, it goes a little deeper than that. Resembling a penis, the middle finger was stuck straight up while the rest of the hand formed into a knuckle shape, resembling testicles.
Why in the world would the Greeks and Romans want to parade the symbol of a phallus around? It’s simple. They wanted to intimidate, degrade, or often times threaten the recipient of the sexual gesture.
It then took on an evil nature and was often compared to giving someone the evil eye, like those who believe in it within the Mediterranean. It was believed that the evil eye and the finger were associated with putting a curse or hex, if you will, on another; bringing them misery and bad luck into their life.
The gesture then took on the term in Latin, digitus impudicus. This means “shameless, indecent, or offensive finger.” All in all, giving the middle finger long ago never added up to anything good! It’s pretty easy to see why it carried over from culture to culture, year after year, decade after decade.
Nicknames the Middle Finger Gesture Was Given
Here are some of the nicknames that the “middle finger” has been given:
- Flipping the bird
- Middle Salute
- Tossing the Stick
How the Flipping the Middle Finger Became Cool
While it always carries a negative connotation, giving the middle finger actually became cool several decades ago. In an attempt to bring the gesture to justice, younger generations started flipping each other off as a way to say hi, or to fool around; like in an effort to say, “Just joking.”
Some viewed it as a way to ask for or show a longing for peace. In this case, it was usually linked to political correctness.
Fashion artists around the globe have taken a liking to this very interpretive sign. Now you can buy clothing that has middle finger birds and some artists, like Jesus Zabala, are creating unique pieces like the middle finger necklace and other statement jewelry surrounding flipping people off.
How Flipping the Middle Finger Became Political
The middle finger also became a symbol of political protest in more recent times. People decided to protest the war and were banded together flipping off reporters as if to say no way to war! In fact, years ago, singer Ricky Martin was photographed giving President Bush the bird at one of his concerts when he declared war in Iraq. People in American aren’t the only ones who use the symbol as a sign of war protest. Those in Serbia just to name a few; have been documented giving it to the US embassy.
The Middle Finger Enters Pop Culture
Artists use it in their pictures and sculptures, and a band called Cobra Starship even went as far as to release a song called, “Middle Finger” which featured all kinds of people making this gesture in their music video.
Actress Cameron Diaz was famously captured giving the lewd gesture during a photo shoot. Some then started viewing it as sexy.
While those who are famous can get away with making this powerful statement, others end up getting reprimanded, like athletes.
Athletes, specifically Stefan Effenberg, Ron Artest, Jack McDowell, and Bryan Cox (among others) have gotten suspended from their sport just for using the finger and getting caught in the action.
Famous Singers Britney Spears and Iggy Azalea have also flipped off the paparazzi after being followed and taunted, and later had to apologize since their fans believed the gesture was given to them! You can even find musicians unapologetically giving the middle finger on their album cover, like Kid Rock. His album, Devil Without a Cause prominent, showed the bird at erect attention.
How is the Middle Finger Gesture Used Today
Today, adults tend to use the gesture most when driving. When getting cut off or almost side swiped, drivers shove their finger out their window to show their distaste and displeasure. Children also attempt to exercise their independence and may get caught doing it a time or two, just because they know it’s viewed as naughty.
The middle finger has a long, extensive history. While its meaning has tried to turn positive or sexy, unfortunately, it’s sticking to its ancient roots of being offensive and threatening. The next time you get ready to flip someone off or become the recipient of this gesture, now you know who started it and why!