Alexander Pschera

Alexander Pschera, born 1964 in West-Germany, studied German, Philosophy and Music in Heidelberg. He is an author, publicist and translator.

Source: shutterstock Classic gesture: flipping the bird

Endangered Gestures:
Flipping the Bird

Replaced by a much coarser sign

It was mainly motorists who received the benefit of this disparaging gesture, which signified a basic doubt in the sanity of the other. Behind this was the popular belief that people, to whom one ‘flipped the bird,’ had an animal nesting in their brain – which of course was usually not the case. Alternatively, it was possible, after a dangerous maneuver on the road, to see oneself confronted with a hand moving like a windshield wiper in front of a face, meaning: “You must be insane!” Both gestures featured an inherent good-naturedness, even a certain intrinsic good humor, which made them, as bodily signs, quite suitable for daily use. Contrary to that, the modern-day extended middle finger of American provenance is a coarse gesture not to be trifled with. It signals violence, especially sexual, in particular if this middle finger, which not without reason is referred to as ‘Stinkefinger’ in German, is attached to an extended arm which is also muscular and tatooed. This leads into unpleasant, even unsavory, realms which have nothing at all to do with minor traffic offenses. However, in some areas of Berlin even flipping the bird can quickly become dangerous, especially when directed at Muslim fellow citizens. Appropriateness and a sense of proportion are no longer generally recognized virtues.

Translated from: Cato Magazin

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