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To put on the long finger

Posted by Masakim on February 24, 2003

In Reply to: To put on the long finger posted by James Briggs on February 24, 2003

: : : : while most people agree on the meaning of this phrase, I am curious to know if anyone can fill me in on the origin of it....

: : : I've never heard the expression (I live in the U.S.). What does it mean and how is it used?

: : It means "to postpone something indefinitely." It is in common usage here in Ireland and, according to one website, is an Irish colloquialism, which I hadn't realised. "Méar fada" is Irish for "middle finger." The Dictionary of Hiberno-English has: "on the méar fhada," postponed indefinitely. 'Fraid I have absolutely no idea why it has this meaning.

: I've never heard it in the UK. I guess it hasn't travelled far, and may even be regional within Ireland.

Jonathon Green labels it "Irish."

put on the long finger, to phr [20C] (Irish) to postpone indefinitely. [one pushes it as far away as one can]
From Cassell's Dictionary of Slang