Where does middle finger come from?
As a gesture, the exact origins of the middle finger are obscure, though there's some stories ....
One story traces it back to the Battle of Agincourt in 1415. As the story goes, French soldiers would cut off the the index and middle fingers of captured British archers, who needed them for slinging arrows. When the French failed to capture any bowmen, the British would flash those two precious digits to taunt their enemies while shouting "Pluck yew!" Their bows were made from the yew tree.
A good rule of thumb, er, middle finger: If an etymology sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
Scholars instead note that the Ancient Greeks used the middle finger as a phallic symbol and the Romans called the finger the digitus impudicus, or “unchaste finger." These both imply a sexual aggression or dominance. Think about how we use the term dick or fuck off as an insult today.
Whatever its origins, written reference to giving the middle finger dates back to the mid-1500s. Since then, the gesture, and spoken or written reference to it, has been a staple in Western culture to express anger and disgust to someone—a way of saying "fuck you" without having to strain your voice, hence its great visibility in road rage.
The middle finger has stood in for an obscenity from politics to popular culture. In 1976, for instance, Vice President Nelson Rockefeller gave hecklers the middle finger at a New York campaign event.
Many popular movies have featured the finger or the bird, as the middle finger is often called, from Molly Ringwald in 1985's The Breakfast Club to Neo in 1999's The Matrix.
The middle finger has caused many a public controversy, too. During the 2012 Super Bowl halftime show, singer M.I.A. let the bird fly in a general act of self-expressive defiance. The NFL attempted to get over $16 million in damages from her at one point.
And, at the opening ceremonies to the 2018 World Cup, singer Robbie Williams gave the finger to millions viewing worldwide. He later claimed he meant it as a one-minute countdown to kickoff but he got all mixed up in the moment. We don't know if you're putting your finger on what happened, Robbie.
The Unicode Consortium finally allowed us to tell people off in texts and online since 2014, when it approved the middle finger emoji 🖕 by popular demand.
Who uses middle finger?
The term middle finger is used in reference to the gesture, that nonverbal species of "fuck off" so often delivered in road-raging cars or when walking away from a heat-of-the-moment spat at a sporting event.
The middle finger, in the flesh, is considered very obscene and offensive, though among friends, it can be issued more ironically and creatively.
It's not a universally crude gesture, however. In many Islamic cultures, the thumbs up gesture is considered vulgar while the two-fingered V sign can communicate the choice sentiment in the UK, Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Flip any of them the bird, however, and they'll know exactly what you mean.
So I just, throw up a middle finger and let it linger / Longer than the rumor that I was stickin' it to Christina.
Eminem, "I’m Back" (song), 2000
(sorry for swearing) / but when one direction come back it’s over for the bitches who fucking said “one direction is dead” “they’re not coming back” my middle finger salutes those people:)
@larryxstylinsun, June, 2018
She hopped on Instagram shortly after Chloe posted the first pic of their little bundle of joy. Melissa posted two strange pics to her Instagram story. In one, she’s staring at the camera and throwing up the middle finger. It’s captioned “goodnight”. In the second, she’s wearing devil horns in a dark room, and it’s captioned, “mood”. While she doesn’t explicitly say why she did this, the timing is a little suspect. Hmm…
Samantha Wilson, Hollywood Life, June, 2018