Date: Wed, 14 Jan 1998 08:21:06 -0500 From: "ALAN BARAGONA (by way of Alan Baragona )" Subject: Very TAN--Giving Finger Coincidentally, the very day ADS-L members were discussing possible anachronisms in Amistad and Titanic, I read Roger Ebert's review of the latter in which he questioned whether "giving the finger" was a practice as early as 1912. I responded, as you can see below, and received this follow-up query from Ebert. Unfortunately, it doesn't have anything to do with language, unless you can come up with early terms for the practice he describes, but I told him I'd forward his question to you. ----- Forwarded Message ----- TO: ALAN BARAGONA, ABaragona FROM: Roger Ebert, REBERT DATE: 1/13/98, 10:18 PM Re: Titanic: Giving Finger Dear Alan, I got your address via the CompuServe Member Directory and used your message in the Answer Man for 1/11/98 (on CIS and at Here;s how it ran: Q. You wrote in your review of "Titanic," "At one point Rose gives Lovejoy the finger; did young ladies do that in 1912?" This very question came up during an American Dialect Society's online discussion of anachronisms in "Amistad" (where characters say "hello" despite the fact that the word was not used until the invention of the telephone). Apparently, the gesture has been used at least since the last century (there are photographs of 19C people giving the finger), although I'd say it's unlikely that a young lady would have done so in 1912. (Alan Baragona, Staunton, Va.) A. Now I have another challenge for the anachronism-hunters at the American Dialect Society. It may be a little off their specialty, but ask them to do their best. In "The Wings of the Dove," a film based on a Henry James novel, two of the characters make love outdoors while braced up against a pillar in Venice. The novel is set earlier, but the film moves the action up to about 1910. In what year, according to the society's best thinking, did young ladies of the sort Henry James writes about begin to participate in such practices? ======================================= I'm not sure if Ebert is asking about 1) having sex against a pillar, 2) having sex in a public place, or 3) upper crust girls doing this sort of thing. Since it's apparent that prostitutes and country wenches certainly practiced the first two, I assume this is really a question about class behavior. I responded with Aubrey's famous story about Walter Raleigh and the "Mayd of Honour" up against a tree in a wood, but I'm not sure this is public enough to serve as an answer. If anyone is prurient enough to know something about this, I'll pass your answer along. If you want me to tell Ebert to come back when he has a damned question about language usage, I'll do that, too. Alan B.