Has the middle finger lost its ability to shock? That's the subject of a
new 1200-word piece from noted vulgarian news outlet NPR. It seems
there's a compelling case to be made that the finger—like everything
else—has been screwed up by people who aren't you. Explains writer Linton Weeks
in stores, in schools, on the news. People are extending their middle
fingers as a silent, but effective -- sometimes too effective -- way of
saying 'go to hell,' 'up yours' or '(insert nasty-sounding verb here)
you.' It's also known by a few other handles, such as 'shooting the
bird' and 'flipping off.' But whatever you call it, it's become
So what next? What if 'giving
the finger' is becoming so ordinary that it's losing its sting? 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
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