Giving someone "the finger" is one of the basest violations in modern culture, but its origins date back over 2500 years. The first written record of the insult occurred in ancient Greece, where the playwright Aristophanes (the Adam Sandler of his day) made a crude joke mixing up the middle finger and the penis. Even back then, the bird was considered an aggressive, phallic put-down.
By jabbing a threatening phallus at your enemy like a wild animal, you aren't just belittling him, but also making him your sexual inferior. In Greek comedies, actors often appeared with long leather flaps tied to their belts in a representation of the male appendage. These actors slapped each other around with their 'comedy dicks' in a bit of wacky shtick akin to today's whoopee cushion. Yet, the average Greek citizen probably couldn't afford (and didn't want) to wear his or her own leather cock around the Acropolis. Instead, these ordinary Janes and Platos called upon the substitute wieners within their own hands to mock, threaten, and humiliate opponents.
And boy, did it. When the Romans imported the art, music, and culture of the Greeks, the finger came along, too. Roman Emperor Caligula, a pioneer in perversity, frequently shocked his citizens by forcing them to kiss his middle finger instead of his hand. One of his subjects, Cassius, who Caligula often taunted as being too effeminate, finally had enough humiliation and assassinated him. Clearly, the bird was not to be taken lightly.
During the Middle Ages, the finger went underground. It was still known, but the Catholic Church frowned upon its use, as the middle finger was supposed to be holy in the Mass. The unholy insult lurked deep within the hearts of filthy- minded folks everywhere, hiding from sight until the 19th century when it began to crop up again thanks to a new invention -photography.
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