Date: Tue, 4 Feb 1997 09:16:32 -0500

From: Jesse T Sheidlower jester[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]PANIX.COM

Subject: Re: "the bird"

There's an excellent article discussing both of these issues

in the current (February) issue of GQ, of all things. I

recommend it.

My daughter inquires about the origin of

1. the American rude gesture known as "flipping the bird", which

is not really within the domain of this list, and

2. its name, which is.

The original sense of _bird_ goes back to 1825 and meant 'the booing

or hissing of a player or performance'. Later senses, attested by

the 1920s, are 'a raspberry; Bronx cheer', and 'ridicule, mockery,

or rejection in any form'. The first evidence I know of that

unquestionably attests the sense 'extended middle finger as rude

gesture' is only in 1966.

Jesse Sheidlower

Random House Reference