Some Call it The Bird

Because I have a certain affinity for both birds and quick-reference texts, GD once gave me a copy of the clever Field Guide to the North American Bird which, as you can tell from the cover (below), has nothing at all to do with birds. Instead, it's all about flipping people off/giving them the finger/flipping the bird.

As the recent discussion about Unofficial (read: our local anti-scholastic-campus-booze-fest) on this blog precipitated some discussion of how to perform the flip-off/middle-finger gesture, I feel I should say that, in my experience, I've seen this fuck-you gesture performed four ways:

1. with finger prominent and other fingers held back
2. with finger prominent and fingers rotated forward
3. with finger prominent, fingers rotated forward, and thumb extended
4. one of above ways but using middle finger to point at the recipient of said gesture.

Number 4 is particularly intense and not covered in Blank, Blank, and Moore's guide.

This Google.image.set gives a pretty good roundup of middle-finger-variation. This Flickr.set does as well. My favorite by far is this one:


  1. Anonymous10:24 AM

    ahhhh, the "cat's paw"

    famous with crow bar users everywhere

  2. Dude. I am so voting for this as Best Post of the Week. Tx for giggle.

  3. Does your taxonomy include ways of arriving at the gesture? Personally, I like the hand crank method.

  4. i'm always curious by the people who say "flick off" instead of "flip off." it doesn't seem to be a regional thing.. (the people i know who say that are from baltimore...but also a couple from portland...)

  5. That's right! I've heard that, now that you mention it. A gesture w/ a lot of variations in performance and naming.

  6. Anonymous10:33 AM

    I suspect the two original expressions are "flick off" and "flip the bird," which merged to "flip off." However, both "flip" and "flick" are descriptive of the motion of the finger moving up, so they may have coexisted for a long time.

    I haven't seen any isoglosses of the two terms, but I know from personal experience that "flick off" is common in Michigan and "flip off" is common in Washington and the Pacific Northwest.


  7. Anonymous10:40 AM

    Apparently, "flick off" originally referred to female onanism but came to mean generally "f**k off" and thus synonymous with "flip the bird." "Flick off" can also be used in some regions in the sense of "f**k off," although in that case it may simply be an instance of taboo deformation, cf. "frig off." (The etymologies here are very unclear because written records are lacking.)


  8. The Translator to the rescue! :)