Adding Insult to..Whatever

Some might think this post is offensive. I Ask that if you are easily offended or quick to insult stop now while you’re ahead.  If your open minded and enjoy poking fun at people for the frail, juvenile creatures that they are then by all means proceed.

Ah, the middle finger, also known as the long finger or bird finger, and usually the longest finger, is the third digit of the human hand, located between the index finger and the ring finger. It is also referred to as digitus medius, digitus tertius, “digitus infamous”, or digitus III in anatomy.

In many Western countries, extending the middle finger (either on its own or along with the index finger in the United Kingdom & Australia) is an offensive and obscene hand gesture, colloquially known as the highway salute, the bird, “flipping the bird”, “flipping someone off”, “giving the finger” (as in giving someone the finger), often meaning the phrase “fuck you” or “up yours.” It is performed by showing the back of the hand, extending the middle finger of the hand upwards while bending the other fingers down into the palm.

Giving someone “the finger” is one of the basest violations in modern culture, but its origins date back over 2500 years. The first written record of the insult occurred in ancient Greece, where the playwright Aristophanes (the Adam Sandler of his day) made a crude joke in an ancient Greek comedy mixing up the middle finger and the penis. Even back then, the bird was considered an aggressive, phallic put-down.  Greeks began calling upon their substitute wieners by raising their own hands to mock, threaten, and humiliate others.

The widespread usage of the finger in many cultures is likely due to the geographical influence of the Roman Empire and Greco-Roman civilization.  When the Romans imported the art, music, and culture of the Greeks, the finger came along, too. The Roman Emperor Caligula, a pioneer in perversity, frequently shocked his citizens by forcing them to kiss his middle finger instead of his hand. One of his subjects, Cassius, who Caligula often taunted as being too effeminate, finally had enough humiliation and assassinated him. Clearly, the bird was not to be taken lightly.

During the Middle Ages, the finger went underground. It was still known, but the Catholic Church frowned upon its use, as the middle finger was supposed to be holy in the Mass. The unholy insult lurked deep within the hearts of filthy- minded folks everywhere, hiding from sight until the 19th century when it began to crop up again thanks to a new invention -photography.

In 1886, Hall of Fame baseball pitcher Charles “Old Hoss” Radbourn slipped his little finger fastball into the Boston Beaneaters team picture. The split-second art of photography could turn the once-boring painted portrait into a spontaneous work of rebellion, humor and spunk. Americans everywhere quickly got into the act.

The finger is a near universal insult that we can all use.  Men, Women, children, old folks, Farmers, bankers and even computer nerds like me can use the finger with virtually perfect understanding of its meaning.  In this fast paced day and age, who has time to formulate real, meaningful insults?


We should embrace the finger since it is truly part of our culture and something to be respected.  So here’s to you.  Up yours!



About JayCooper

Puzzled WebWizard from Mount Juliet Tennessee. Married for 25+ years to a wonderful wife with three grown sons.

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