Friday, July 20, 2012

The Origin of "The Finger"

The Finger
Have you even wondered where does "The Finger" gesture come from? I always thought that it had something to do with the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the One Hundred Years War between the French and the English. 

According to the story, the French soldiers cut off the middle fingers or the English archers to prevent them from using the longbow. In respond, the English soldiers gave the French "The Finger" to show them that they still have it. But this story seams to be also the origin of the "Flicking the V" which would actually make more sense since you need both the index finger and the middle finger to draw a longbow. 




Flicking the V

That was too much of a coincidence for me so I started searching...

And guess what? "The Finger" was used for the first time (that we know of) as an insulting gesture in Ancient Greece. It's meaning, I doubt it needs any further explanation. The finger itself represent the falus, the meaning of the gesture symbolizes anal intercourse in a manner meant to degrade, intimidate and threaten the receiving part of the message. 

"The Finger" gesture was also used as a protection against the Evil Eye. In many European countries, tradition that is kept to this day in some rural areas, a curse could be diverted with a threat of a bigger curse.

In Ancient Greece, the gesture was called κατάπυγον (katapigon) meaning someone who would willingly submit themselves to anal intercourse and, as a gesture, appears in some very intellectual contexts. The first historical attestation of "The Finger" in a theater play was in 423 BC in Aristophanes' "The Clouds". While Socrates considers the gesture to be boorish and childish, philosopher Diogenes makes use of it by addressing it to orator Demostenes (4th Century BC) as related by Diogenes Laertius.

The ones who are really responsible for spreading it around the world are the Romans. Who, even though they called it "digitus impudicus"  - the offensive finger - were still using it in official or less official circumstances.

So, next time you use "The Finger" think of how old it is and that you are actually handling a 2,5 thousand years artifact:))

1 comment:

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