Daily Archives: February 8, 2012

Romans Called Middle Finger Gesture Digitus Impudicus

When did the middle finger become offensive?  BBC. 

Apparently it all started back in the Roman days of the high and mighty politicians spewing forth rhetoric that did not sit well with constituents who knew better. 

My.  How times have not changed.  Little did the philosopher Diogenes of Sinope know how his digital gesture towards the politician Demosthenes, would become ingrained in culture some millenia away.

“It’s one of the most ancient insult gestures known,” says anthropologist Desmond Morris.

“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.”

Digitus impudicus.  Wagging the shameless or indecent finger.  Offending others using it was quite acceptable back in the day.  But the Romans were not the only ones to come up with a special maneuver over time to show disdain.

The French have their own phallic salute, says Mr Morris.

In performing the “bras d’honneur” (arm of honour), one raises the forearm with the back of the hand facing outward, while slapping or gripping the inside of the elbow with the other hand.

The British gesture – the two-fingered ‘v’ with the palm facing inward – is a “double phallus”,

Alas.  A historical lesson in offensive gestures.  Beyond those gleaned in the school yards of America.  Perhaps.

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