Saturday, September 7, 2013

Weekly Whine: Middle Finger

There are certain people who always gesture at things with their middle finger.

I know there was a whole Seinfeld about that, but I genuinely don't think it's purposeful. I've seen people who will be having a formal meeting and point at a document with their middle finger. And it makes me uncomfortable, to be honest.

What's up with that?


  1. I missed that Seinfeld episode but I think it's an age and cultural thing. I've only seen older people-- older men -- use their middle finger to point. And I've seen fewer over the years. My guess is that the rude middle finger gesture is more recent.

    1. No, that gesture is ancient, like Greece and Rome ancient. Some cultures consider pointing with your pointer finger to be rude, for one reason or another. Due to their worldwide clientele, Disney associates are taught to point at things for giving directions and the like by using their entire hand, to avoid the plethora of taboos about fingers across the globe. I don't know the origins of any cultural/social thing in which using a non-pointer finger as your main point-at-things finger wasn't considered stupid; while the middle finger may be the longest, your pointer finger is the obvious choice for being the easiest to control, and not part of an extremely rude gesture in all cultures for well over 2000 years. I had a really old teacher in second grade who would point at things with her ring finger! It was so weird. When I make a fist, I can't even then move the knuckle digit of my ring finger without moving other fingers, the most I can make is a 90 degree angle. Think of it like this: culture is created by humans, and it changes over time because of them, so like mutations in DNA causing evolution over time but in the short run sometimes causing cancer, you're going to get individuals who just do some random normal thing completely different even when it means they're otherwise competent, socially well adjusted people arbitrarily doing something stupid, weird, or wrong. Pointing with your pointer finger is a robust enough institution (thank goodness!) that it will withstand these occasional random mutations, but take it as a sign of the overall process.

  2. Maybe they're trying to tell you something.

  3. I've noticed this very frequently with people from certain cultures where apparently it it NOT considered rude (India, and sometimes other Asians). They don't at all get why I sometimes giggle (when its friends). So, maybe its ancient in Greco-Roman culture, but not universal as a rude gesture.