The Finger/the birdbi

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed Jan 23 01:46:24 UTC 2002

>         Although the bird itself, I understand, is quite old, the OED takes
>this meaning of "bird" back only to 1968 - 1970 (which is shortly before I
>first heard the "finger" so called).  So:  Which came first, the bird or the

The finger gesture is old ... compared to young me, that is. I did not know
"the bird" in this sense ca. 1960; I think I heard it around 1970. Before
that I heard usually "the finger" IIRC. HDAS shows this "bird" from 1966.

As for the perch, that's a fish, not a bird. The way I recall it, when I
was young(er) -- too young for the "dozens" or even the "sevens", maybe
doing the "half-dozens" -- before I knew "the bird" as a gesture -- one
line was something like "Do you like fish?" If answered "No", then of
course one put forth something like "Then here's some meat for you"; if
answered "Yes", one could say "Then perch on this." (With rude gesture
[usually not exactly the one-finger salute, though] in either case,
followed by [optional] yuk-yuk, arm-punch, palm-slap, etc.) I'm sure there
were other versions just as witty and elegant.

-- Doug Wilson

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