The Art of Raising Hell – Flipping The Bird

The middle finger is a very provocative weapon and should be in every hell raiser’s toolbox. Whether it’s subtly replying to a girlfriend who’s just told you that you’re getting fat or letting the guy across the field know what you really think about his football team, I can guarantee that this gesture will get your message across. Heck, in New York City, it’s a perfectly acceptable way to say hello! No matter how you use it, you’re bound to arouse attention. And, isn’t that what hell raising is all about?

The art of gesticulation, I just had to use that word for obvious reasons, goes back to the days of the ancient Greeks. It has always symbolized intercourse in some way, usually representing a male organ being inserted into one hole or the other, depending on the company you keep. Even the present day Greeks still use it with vigor. Who can forget the movie poster for Animal House.

Animal house

During the Dark Ages, the Catholic Church banned its use so people came up with their own creative ways of expressing their feelings. Medieval knights used to raise their lances up in a way that emulated a middle finger just before jabbing it into their opponent’s chest. In the 1400’s, French warriors cut off the middle finger of English archers so they couldn’t pull back their longbows, thus rendering them useless in a fight. The British won the battle anyway and began mocking the French by raising their middle fingers in defiance.

I can see the Monty Python sketch right now. Envision a moustached Frenchman standing behind a castle wall spitting up, “Blah! Puh! I don’t want to talk to you no more…I fart in your general direction!” All the while, an Englishman flips him the bird and yells back, “Stick this up your ars, mate,” as an arrow soars through the air.

It is thought that the Italians were the first to use it in the United States during the 1800’s but I think that’s giving them way too much credit. After all, you have to believe that Patrick Henry had his arm raised and finger high in the air when he shouted the words, “Give me liberty, or give me death!”

Its universal appeal makes it quite an icebreaker at functions too. You may not understand the language the person is speaking, but they’ll definitely understand the gesture. I mean, what other action can excite so many different emotions and stand for such a variety of messages? Think about it, there’s: anger, disgust, rebellion, humor, sadness, …the list goes on. You should be careful about when and where you use it though. I can’t tell you how many times my wife has made me cringe and duck down into the car seat after she’s given some driver the finger who’s just cut her off.

I’d like to leave you with an excerpt from my upcoming book on the subject where our main hell raiser’s reputation becomes legendary. It goes like this:

“Next came reports that someone driving a beat-up truck with no license plates was filling up his gas tank at stations outside the county line and driving off without paying. The suspect always wore a baseball hat down over his eyes and never got out of the truck. In most cases, he would ask for a quart of oil from the attendants and take off as soon as they went inside the station. None of them ever got a good description of the guy because the sun was in their eyes as he drove off, but they were able to confirm that he did have a middle finger.”

PS: I’d love to see your favorite photo of someone giving the finger. Please post away on my Facebook page “Thomas Lopinski – Author“ or at Pinterest http://www.pinterest.com/thomaslopinski/the-art-of-raising-hell-the-middle-finger/.

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