October 05, 2004
digitus infamis


The finger, known variously as the one-finger salute, the highway salute, flipping (someone) off, flipping the bird or the Trudeau salute (in Canada). It is a hand gesture made by extending the middle finger of the hand while bending the other fingers at the second knuckle. It has an offensive meaning in some cultures, comparable to "fuck you".

The origins of this gesture is highly speculative. It is identified as the "impudent finger" in Ancient Roman writings. It was defined there as a gesture intended to insult another. It has been noted that the gesture resembles an erect penis. Ancient Romans considered an image of an erect phallus as a talisman against evil spells. As a consequence, displaying this gesture to another may not have been a pseudo-sexual insult but rather a insulting statement along the lines of – "I'm going to protect myself against your witchcraft, before you even start."

The "one-finger salute," or at any rate sexual gestures involving the middle finger, are thousands of years old. In Gestures: Their Origins and Distribution, Desmond Morris and colleagues note that the digitus infamis or digitus impudicus (infamous or indecent finger) is mentioned several times in the literature of ancient Rome. Turning to our vast classical library, we quickly turn up three references. Two are from the epigrammatist Martial: "Laugh loudly, Sextillus, when someone calls you a queen and put your middle finger out."

In the other reference Martial writes that a certain party "points a finger, an indecent one, at" some other people. The historian Suetonius, writing about Augustus Caesar, says the emperor "expelled [the entertainer] Pylades . . . because when a spectator started to hiss, he called the attention of the whole audience to him with an obscene movement of his middle finger." Morris also claims that the mad emperor Caligula, as an insult, would extend his middle finger for supplicants to kiss.


It's not known whether one displayed the digitus infamis in the same manner that we (well, you) flip the bird today. In another of his books Morris describes a variety of sexual insults involving the middle finger, such as the "middle-finger down prod," the "middle-finger erect," etc., all of which are different from the classic middle-finger jerk.

The widely held claim that the 'middle finger salute' is derived from the defiant gestures of English archers whose fingers had been severed by the French at the Battle of Agincourt is most likely a myth.

See also: The V-sign & The Shocker.

it wahs | from inside the mind of krix at October 05, 2004 11:05 AM .

You're so thinky today.

Posted by: V. on October 5, 2004 11:44 AM

I give this report two thumbs up.

Posted by: Chianti on October 5, 2004 11:46 AM

Not thinky at all. Cut and pasty from the sources linked at the beginning of the paragraphs.

Posted by: krix on October 5, 2004 11:53 AM

Which then makes me blindy.

Posted by: V. on October 5, 2004 12:04 PM

well yeah, okay, but he's not doing it right! the truly professional one-finger-saluter doesn't hold down the rest of his fingers by crossing them with his thumb. just slowly bend your pointer and your ring finger down at the second knuckle, and your pinkie will follow... uh... i've been told.

Posted by: casluvskeanu on October 5, 2004 12:31 PM

A++++ for report and presentation krix, and the visual aids are of excellent creativity!! I'm moving you up in the class to advance placement! :-) I love this, I was laughing my ass off and I love the picture, especially the one of Neo with the tvs behind him. tee hee. I'm proud he's displaying this lately to the photogs, LOL!

Posted by: Jena on October 5, 2004 01:02 PM

Perhaps I am looking for communists under rocks.

Is there someone in particular this particular digit goes out to?

If so do tell.

Posted by: Tyler on October 5, 2004 01:09 PM

It's strange isn't it how we fans all crave the pictures so the paparazzi goes and gets them and we oooh and ahh and drool and then when the object of our desires gets pissed and starts flipping them off, we feel so sad for him and wish they would just "leave him alone".
A conundrum to say the least.
We want pictures. We want to see who he's with and how long he has let his beard grow and we want him.
He obliges until it is intrusive.
How do we all, his fans and he himself deal with the situation?
Hrm. Perhaps we should stop buying the crappy rags that post these intrusive pictures and then they, the press wouldn't be making cash off of him anymore?
But no, not the true fans. No, they will never let him be at peace but yet they will scream from every message board they go to how they just wish for the poor guy to be left alone.

Sorry Krx but this is one aspect of being a fan that has always bothered me.

Posted by: kat on October 5, 2004 01:23 PM

No, not to anyone, Tyler. I'd heard about a certain current "flipping off" candid photo (and have since seen it) and thought that the "history of the bird" combined with the screen grabs would make a good blog entry. It's really not intended to be biting social commentary on the use of papparazzi images. It's just a blog post about flipping the bird, becuase...well, apparently he's flipped the bird recently.

Having said that....

Kat, when you say that it's an aspect of being a fan that bothers you, then why not change the way you approach your fandom? The only person one can change is oneself, and it's a start. And you've hit the nail on the head. Don't buy the mags. Don't encourage the consumption of papparazzi images. If you're speaking for other fans or for fandom in general, well, I don't think you like people speaking for you or lumping you in a generality (i.e. all single moms are X...etc). I know many fans, and especially readers of my site that don't "crave" these types of photos or to keep tabs on what he does in his free time. I also know that many fans really do like to see him day to day yet really are conflicted about how far the intrusion goes. You can't know that he's not taking it in stride as "part of the job" until one of the less courteous shots comes through to remind what "candid" really means. I hope that those that are voicing their concerns about leaving him alone are making new choices and backing that up with their own actions to not perpetuate the whole 'razzi thing. But that's a choice each fan has to make.

Posted by: krix on October 5, 2004 02:25 PM

Well, you can take it even further by not frequenting such sites that even host those types of photos. By clicking on those sites, you are supporting the paparazzi that take those pics.

Posted by: Luna on October 5, 2004 02:41 PM

Wow! And all this time I thought it was just the finger that you used to help put your contact lens in. Who knew? ;)

Posted by: irene on October 5, 2004 02:58 PM

Funny, I didn't even think about Keanu's recent pictures. I just thought maybe YOU were p.o'd at somebody.

I use my index finger myself. :)

Posted by: Tyler on October 5, 2004 03:05 PM

For my contact lenses that is.

Posted by: Tyler on October 5, 2004 03:07 PM

He's doing it the Canadian way. What you're describing is the American way. And I resent that you think it's more professional. ;)

Thanks for clearing that up. *snicker*

Posted by: Zen on October 5, 2004 03:32 PM

BTW, I'm SO working the phrase "I'm going to protect myself against your witchcraft, before you even start" into a song.

Posted by: krix on October 5, 2004 03:46 PM

I am sorry but I am one of the fans that feel for Keanu after all isn't that what we are here for? To me when someone flips someone else off including Keanu it means exactly that-F*ck you or F*ck off!
It is a gesture that is usually used "towards ignorant people" because they do not know other means of communication. What I see is that they push Keanu to the limit and that is why he does that. I back him up 100% percent because that is my choice as a fan. Yes, I love looking at him no matter what once again, that is my choice as a fan. If I were to meet him however, I would treat him with my deepest respect, not expect anything out of the ordinary, that is all he is asking for. I believe he treats everyone kindly all the time until they disrespect him. By the way this was very interesting reading like the definitions and all, amusing, thanks.

Posted by: Chabella on October 5, 2004 04:14 PM

Krix, to clear up any confusion, I was not speaking for any particular fan or site. I was merely musing on what I had seen yesterday after not having been to a particular site for a week. I was sort of struck by the images and then the very different statements that were being made. I personally try to avoid those types of sites and that is why I frequent yours. I know you loath the paparrazi as much as I do.

Posted by: kat on October 5, 2004 05:10 PM

I know you do, that's why the "we fans all" angle threw me and I wanted to call you on it to clear it up. I almost said "We? what? you got a mouse in yer pocket??" :)

Posted by: krix on October 5, 2004 05:28 PM

I think the good thing about Keanu is that he doesn't snap when being pushed to the limit. The good thing about him is that he doesn't pull a Tommy Lee and kick the shit out of a photog or break their camera. Keanu calmly walks away or like we've seen recently, decides to flip the bird, which I think isn't that disrespectful concidering that he's being disrespected by the photogs. I think they are intrusive, but part of me loves seeing the candids. I like to see him being "normal" yet the photogs are getting and have gone too far. I was sitting at the kitchen table reading the latest In Touch while eating my dinner tonight and saw a picture of Jessica Simpson, she ran out of gas in the middle of a Beverly Hills intersection and she was actually glad there were paparazzi around because they helped her push her car, LOL! I think that is the only good I have ever heard a photog do and it's probably the only time a celebrity was glad they were there, LMAO!

Posted by: Jena on October 5, 2004 06:43 PM

However, even though the photogs deserve to have their cameras broken and the crap kicked out of them, LOL, I'm still glad to see that Keanu keeps his cool and walks it off. But damn he gets followed more than any celebrity I think. Pretty soon he's not going to want to leave the house. :-( Wasn't there suppose to be some new law coming out against paparazzi?

Posted by: Jena on October 5, 2004 06:45 PM

You can't say that you feel awful for Keanu and then in the same breath say that you like seeing those candid pics. You can't have it both ways. Frequenting certain sites where these pics appear is just as bad as taking the photo yourself. And if you are one of those giving money to those sites, then you are directly supporting those paparazzi who hound Keanu all day long.

Posted by: Luna on October 5, 2004 07:49 PM

Luna, thats what I was trying to say but you said it so much better. The site I look at very rarely, had some pics up yesterday and then I saw a warning on the main page about the pics and so curiosity got the better of me and I started reading the comments. A lot of poor Keanus, wish they would leave him alone and then the same people saying things like, who is the girl, why doesn't he shave, doesn't he look hot and I was all, man, which way do you fans want it? Do you want him left alone or do you want to see what wine he's drinking at which cafe today with what gal?
I was more pissed at some of the fans comments than I was at the pictures themselves. I don't blame him for being mad and that is why I rarely go to that site.
They have a double standard about intrusive photos.

Posted by: kat on October 5, 2004 08:55 PM

It's really late and I've aready deleted one of my own comments because it came out wrong. I just want to say, let's take care to not turn this into a bitch session about other sites or fans.

Posted by: krix on October 6, 2004 12:46 AM

Thanks krix :)

Posted by: Chicks on October 7, 2004 10:51 AM

I know I am late...but this is a long finger of his!
and Krix...yes you´re so right! Thanks!

Posted by: susan on October 8, 2004 05:32 AM
What's on your mind?.....
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