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Between the index finger and the ring finger is the middle finger, also known as the long finger, second finger, third finger, toll finger, or tall man. In anatomy, it is referred to as the third finger as well as as the third finger, digitus medius, digitus tertius or digitus III. It is typically the longest digit in the hand.
In Western countries, the gesture of extending the middle finger (either by itself, or along with the index finger in the United Kingdom) is an offensive and obscene gesture, widely recognized as a form of insult, due to its resemblance to an erect penis. Known colloquially as “flipping the bird”, “flipping (someone) off”, or “giving (someone) the finger”, this gesture can refer to a variety of things.”.
It is common for the middle finger to be used to snap the thumb and middle finger together.
The finger or middle finger
A common obscene hand gesture in Western culture is to give someone “the finger”, or the middle finger (as in giving them the bird, giving them the finger, or flipping someone off). In essence, the gesture conveys moderate to extreme contempt, and is roughly equivalent to saying “fuck you”, “fuck me”, “shove it up your ass/arse”, “up yours”, or “go fuck yourself.”. It is
performed by showing the back of a hand where only the middle finger extends upwards, though in some places, the thumb is
extended upwards as well.
In several cultures, especially in the Western world, the extension of the finger is
regarded as a symbol of contempt. Generally, a similar gesture is
used to express disrespect in many cultures, although others use it to express pointing without intent to offend. It is usually
used to express contempt, but it is also
used jokingly and playfully to express humor.
Historically, this gesture has been
used in ancient Greece and ancient Rome. Historically, it represents the phallus. The gesture was widely
recognized as a sign of disrespect in the early 1800s, and it was increasingly
used by music artists (notably more prevalent among actors, celebrities, athletes, and politicians, though most people still view it as obscene). The bent index and ring fingers on each side of the middle finger have been compared to the testes in contemporary times as a symbol of the testes.
Classical era of middle finger
As a symbol of sexual intercourse, the middle finger gesture has been around for centuries. It is
meant to degrade, intimidate and threaten those receiving the gesture. Furthermore, it can also represent the phallus as a group of fingers next to the middle finger representing testicles; due to its close association, it could have been
thought of as an apotropaic gesture. There were a number of ways in which the 1st century Mediterranean world diverted the ever-present threat of the evil eye by extending the finger.
The gesture was
known as the katapygon in Greek. In ancient Greek comedy, the finger gesture was
used to insult someone else. The term katapugon also refers to the act of anal penetration in males, while the term katapygaina refers to the act of anal penetration in females. It was Aristophanes’s comedy The Clouds (423 BC) that, when Socrates was quizzing his student on poetic meters, Strepsiades stated that he understood quite well what a dactyl is and gave a finger to it.
The gesture is a visual pun on the two meanings of the Greek word daktylos, both “finger” as well as the rhythmic measure
composed of a long syllable and two short syllables, which are analogous to finger joints (as well as a visual pun on the penis and testicles that can be
found in medieval Latin texts). One who made the gesture was
referred to by Socrates as being both foolish and stupid by Socrates. During Peace, the gesture is
repeated in conjunction with farting someone in the face, and it is later
explained in the Suda and included in Erasmus’ Adagia as an example of mockery.
The verb “to play the Siphnian” appears in a fragment of Aristophanes and has a similar meaning; it is
explained again in the Suda as meaning “to touch the anus with a finger” and again in the Suda, which explains its meaning. The Discourses of Epictetus, however, record that Diogenes’s target was one of the sophists instead of Demosthenes in the 4th-century BC Athens. The Cynic philosopher Diogenes of Sinope directed the gesture at Demosthenes in the 4th-century BC Athens.
Traditionally, the middle finger was
referred to as the digitus impudicus, meaning shameless, indecent, or offensive finger in Latin. During the 1st century AD, Persius had superstitious female relatives concoct a charm from the “infamous finger” and “purifying spit” (digitus infamis) while in the Satyricon, an old woman marks the forehead with dust, spit and her middle finger before casting a spell in the Satyricon. A poet named Martial has a character in good health extends the “indecent one” toward three doctors in his poem. In another epigram, Martial wrote: “Laugh loud, Sextillus, at whoever calls you a cinaedus and extend your middle finger.”
Juvenal, through synecdoche, has the “middle nail” cocked at threatening Fortuna, through synecdoche. An indecent finger is
featured once again in a mocking context in the poem Priapeia, a collection of poems related to the phallic god Priapus, where it appears again in a mocking context. The term “shameless finger” is
used in the Etymologiae of Isidore of Seville in reference to its frequent use when someone is
accused of committing a “shameful action” in Late Antiquity.
middle finger in United States
believed by linguist Jesse Sheidlower that the gesture was
introduced to the United States in the 1890s by Italian immigrants. According to anthropologist Desmond Morris, it is likely that it has originated in the United States from Italian immigrants. The first documented appearance of the finger in the United States occurred in 1886, when Old Hoss Radbourn, a baseball pitcher for the Boston Beaneaters, was
photographed giving it to a member of the rival team the New York Giants.
middle finger in Canada
In 2023, in a ruling
issued on February 24th regarding a Canadian man who was
accused of criminal harassment and uttering threats, Quebec court Judge Dennis Galiatsatos wrote in response to the accusation, “It is clear that giving someone the finger is not a crime,” and that the right to flip a bird is a Charter-enshrined and God-given right that belongs to every red-blooded Canadian. In some cases, it may not be civil, polite, or gentlemanly. Despite this, it does not trigger criminal liability. The accused man, Neall Epstein, was
acquitted of the charges.
Early appearance in films
As the ringbearer gives the finger to another member of the wedding party due to a misunderstanding, in one of Alfred Hitchcock’s silent films, The Ring (1927), a misunderstanding result in the ringbearer giving the finger to another member of the wedding party.
There is a scene in the film Speedy (1928) where Harold Lloyd’s character gives himself the finger by looking into a distorting mirror in Luna Park, about 25 minutes into the film.
middle finger in World War II
It was during World War II that the 91st Bombardment Group of the United States Army Air Forces referred to the gesture as the “rigid digit salute”. There was a jocular use for this term, which was a reference to British slang terms for inattentiveness (i.e., “pull your finger out”). It was
used as an indication that an airman had committed an error or infraction. The “order of the rigid digit” continued after the war as a series of awards
presented by the veteran’s association of the 91st, which were
marked by wooden statuettes depicting a hand extending one finger towards the ground. It was in 2005, during the Iraq war, that Gunnery Sergeant Michael Burghardt became so well-known
after the Omaha World-Herald published a photograph showing Burghardt waving to Iraqi insurgents
he believed were watching him after an improvised explosive device failed to kill him.