Feature

Has 'the finger' lost its shock value?

"Flipping the bird" has become so commonplace, says Linton Weeks in NPR, that it may soon cease to offend at all

Everyone seems to be "giving the finger" these days, says Linton Weeks at NPR. "You can buy middle-finger wallpaper for your smart phone. There are even cute little finger-flashing emoticons for your instant messages." But the more ubiquitous this "crude gesture" becomes, the more it seems to lose "its sting." Sure, it's still an "effective" way of saying "'go to hell,' 'up yours' or '(insert nasty-sounding verb here) you.'" But the once shocking middle finger is undeniably "becoming commonplace." And if "shooting the bird" turns entirely benign, writes Weeks, how's an angry person supposed to express himself, then? Here, an excerpt:

The Internet is littered with photos and reports of all kinds of famous people giving fingers to the paparazzi, fans, detractors, each other or the world at large. ... Politicians, charged with bringing people together and finding common ground, have also been known to flip a bird or two... [T]here's an infamous video, posted by Salon.com in 2004, of President George W. Bush (while he was governor of Texas), preparing to appear on camera, shooting the bird, then laughing and calling the gesture "just a one-finger victory salute."

So what next? ... Mark L. Knapp, professor emeritus of communications at the University of Texas at Austin and a longtime chronicler of human behavior, says, "If a group of people become inured to the finger gesture — my guess is that you'd have to give the finger with more force or make a dramatic facial expression to go with it." Or perhaps, he suggests, people who are really ticked off and can't keep their hands in their pockets and their anger in check should "give the finger with both hands." Doubling down on the digitus impudicus, he says, just might "restore its emotional life."

Read the full article at NPR.

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