The middle finger is a gesture that doesn’t require much explanation, at least in the modern context.
I mean, when you’re that person who tries to overtake someone during rush hour traffic by changing lanes and someone shows you their middle finger extended up in the air while all the other fingers rest under the thumb, you know they’re asking you to f*ck off.
And hence, we know that it is one of the rudest and most demeaning signs to show to another human being. Yet, the gesture is extremely common. From our cricket team captain waving it at the spectators as well as monkeys giving it to tourists taking selfies, ‘the finger’ is quite commonly used since the mere gesture is so mean that you don’t even require words to get across the point.
But have you ever thought where it comes from? I mean, we use it so regularly that we need to at least know ki boss shuruat kahan se hui?
Well, turns out that the middle finger gesture is not a modern introduction to civilisation at all!
Going back all the way to the time of Ancient Greeks, the symbol was used as a phallic symbol meant to represent the male genitalia.
In fact, anthropologist Desmond Morris has been quoted saying that:
"The middle finger is the penis and the curled fingers on either side are the testicles. By doing it, you are offering someone a phallic gesture. It is saying, 'this is a phallus' that you're offering to people, which is a very primeval display."
This clearly means that even our ancestors got themselves stuck in situations that required actions more than words and what better than just flipping out a middle finger to insult the most irritating person ever, right?
The Romans also had a special name for it: digitus impudicus. When translated, it would mean the ‘unchaste finger’ and well, that very understanding has stuck for a while to the point that even during the modern era, it is considered to be quite an unchaste finger.
However, there’s another very interesting (but also grotesque) theory around the origin of this gesture which claims that during Battle of Agincourt in 1415 between France and Britain, the French soldiers would chop off the middle as well as the index finger of the British archers since both these are important when it comes to shooting arrows. When the French failed to do so, the British soldiers would often show them the two fingers while shouting ‘pluck yew’ given that their bows were made from the yew tree.Clearly, the middle finger as the ultimate sign of insult has been existent for a while now. Between now and then, a lot has changed but we’re glad that the finger stuck around given that it is the best way to let another person know that you’re done with their BS without requiring you to stoop down to the level of verbal fights.