Has the middle finger lost its ability to shock? That's the subject of a new 1200-word piece from noted vulgarian news outlet NPR. It seems there's a compelling case to be made that the finger—like everything else—has been screwed up by people who aren't you. Explains writer Linton Weeks:
On streets, in stores, in schools, on the news. People are extending their middle fingers as a silent, but effective -- sometimes too effective -- way of saying 'go to hell,' 'up yours' or '(insert nasty-sounding verb here) you.' It's also known by a few other handles, such as 'shooting the bird' and 'flipping off.' But whatever you call it, it's become commonplace.
So what next? What if 'giving the finger' is becoming so ordinary that it's losing its sting? Mark L. Knapp, professor emeritus of communications at the University of Texas at Austin and a longtime chronicler of human behavior, says, 'If a group of people become inured to the finger gesture ... my guess is that you'd have to give the finger with more force or make a dramatic facial expression to go with it.'
Or perhaps, he suggests, people who are really ticked off and can't keep their hands in their pockets and their anger in check should 'give the finger with both hands.'
This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.