[Ads-l] RES: Antedating of Bird (Obscene Gesture)

David Daniel dad at COARSECOURSES.COM
Fri Feb 17 23:55:00 UTC 2023

Well, anecdotally speaking, I am quite sure that "flip the bird" was in use
in the late 60s/early 70s. I say this because I left the United States in
1974, and at that time and for some time before, "flip the bird" had been in
general usage, at least in Southern California. 

-----Mensagem original-----
De: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] Em nome de
Jonathan Lighter
Enviada em: sexta-feira, 17 de fevereiro de 2023 20:26
Assunto: Re: Antedating of Bird (Obscene Gesture)

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Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
Subject:      Re: Antedating of Bird (Obscene Gesture)

I'm with Ben.  I've watched this cartoon a number of times over the decades,
and it's never occurred to me that "give him the bird" might refer to
anything other than verbal abuse of the "You can kiss my ass!" variety.

The usu. phrase is usually *flip* the bird.  It may well be that speakers
ca1940 associated "give the bird" with the gesture rather than with
ridicule, but I've not seen the phrase used early in contexts where that
interpretation was unambiguous.

To "give somebody the bird" was still current, in the verbal sense, in the
'50s and early '60s. I first heard the unambiguous "flip the bird"
in 1974 or '75. Before that, in my limited experience at least, the phrase
was "give somebody the finger."


On Fri, Feb 17, 2023 at 12:39 PM Stephen Goranson <goranson at duke.edu> wrote=
> Far be it from me to feign expertise on obscene cat disdain displays, 
> but=
 I note that the cat at the base of the ladder does quite emphaticlly--and =
synchronized with the words--gesture with atypical cat digits, albeit two (=
of four)=E2=80=94twice.
> sg
> ________________________________
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of 
> Ben =
Zimmer <bgzimmer at GMAIL.COM>
> Sent: Friday, February 17, 2023 12:23 PM
> Subject: Re: Antedating of Bird (Obscene Gesture)
> The cartoon is here (with the dialogue in question at 1:37):
> https://urldefense.com/v3/__https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3DdYR8wSmb
> k9w=
> Since Catstello doesn't make the gesture (or even gesture toward the 
> gesture), we don't definitively know what he's referring to. But since 
> "give (someone) the bird" previously meant "to express one's 
> disapproval vocally" (esp. in vaudeville usage), perhaps Catstello was 
> implying that the Hays Office wouldn't let him use rude *language* 
> toward Babbit, rathe=
> than rude finger-flipping (or whatever the feline equivalent would be).
> --bgz
> On Fri, Feb 17, 2023 at 11:52 AM Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:
> > The OED and HDAS have 1966 for the first use of "the international 
> > one-finger salute, the bird," and Green has 1959 for "flip the bird."
> > There is an earlier use in the 1942 Warner Bros. Merrie Melodies 
> > cartoo=
n, A
> > Tale of Two Kitties (best known as the debut of Tweety, although he 
> > was called Orson in this original outing).  The cartoon features two 
> > cats, Babbit and Catstello, that are looking for food and make the 
> > mistake of targeting Tweety.  At one point it includes the following
> >
> > Babbit:  Give me the bird!  Give me the bird!
> > Catstello:  If the Hays Office would only let me, I'd give him the 
> > bird all right.
> >
> > Apparently this joke did make it past the Hays Office, although the 
> > lin=
> > reportedly were cut when the short aired on the WB.
> >
> >
> > John Baker
> >
> >
> >
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