I take that back...
Posted by Word Camel on January 08, 2002
In Reply to: No more far fetched than... posted by Word Camel on January 08, 2002
: : : : : Where does the phrase "flipping someone the bird" come from?
: : : : I couldn't find anything on the use of "bird" for finger in this phrase.
: : : The following, from Eric
Partridge's A Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English may be relevant
although it makes no mention of the hand gesture. To give someone the bird is
"to dismiss [him], send him about his business . . . late C. 19-20. [From] the
theatre . . . In Australia, 'give the bird' is to treat with derision: from before
: : : In obsolete theatrical usage (Partridge gives a date of 1883), "the bird" is defined as "a hissing of an actor," from the sound made by geese.
: : I'm wondering whether we can point the finger at Cockney rhyming slang again here... always a useful last resort. Could "bird" be rhyming slang for "third", as in third finger? Or is this too far-fetched?
: My Fair Lady as pronounciation of "Mayfair Lady" in Eliza's Lisson Grove dialect. :)
It's just occured to me that the gesture in question in the UK is two fingers, the second and third, so sadly it does seem quite so plausible.