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The finger gesture
Frank Zappa “giving the finger” during a concert in Hamburg in 1974

As a middle finger is known colloquially a frequently than obscene be summed up gesture in a more or less self-contained, hand with an outstretched middle finger is extended towards a person or a group. It can be punished as an insult . In German , the gesture, which in English usually simply means "the finger", is referred to as "stinking finger". The Duden first took up the term in 1996 and defines it as "a raised middle finger that is shown to a person - with the back of the hand towards them - to express that they are despised, that they want to be left in peace".

Lexeme and meanings

The term stinky finger is a new term in German that has been in use since the mid-1990s with this meaning "with insulting intent due to a momentary annoyance". In English-speaking countries, the gesture means “Fuck you!” Or “Fuck off!” (See Fuck ).

Before the term was connoted differently , the sexologist Friedrich Salomon Krauss defined stinking fingers in a list of erotic words and strong expressions of the Berlin dialect in 1905 as “playing with the finger on female shame ”. In this meaning it was also used in 1973 by Lothar-Günther Buchheim in the novel Das Boot . According to the linguist Hans-Martin Gauger , the current term stinky finger refers less to the area of sexuality than to that of excrement and anality , from which the German language takes most of its swear words . In Romance origins, on the other hand, the gesture would be shown “purely sexually” with a fictitious threat of penetration and, since it is used especially among men, it would play with the taboo of homosexuality .

History and scientific classifications

Baseball pitcher Charles Radbourn pointed his finger at the camera in 1886, the first photographic documentation of this gesture (left behind, on the shoulder of the person in front).

The humiliating gesture was already known in ancient Greece and Rome . As a phallic symbol , it symbolized an erect penis in the sense of a sexually connoted threat. The Cynical philosopher Diogenes of Sinope is said to have shown them to visitors to Athens who wanted to see the famous rhetorician Demosthenes ; to this end he called: "There you have your Athenian demagogue !"

In Latin they were called digitus impudicus (“shameless” or “indecent finger”). In a poem by Carmina Priapea , a Priapus statue erected for apotropaic purposes complains that a thief only shows her the middle finger half mockingly, half threateningly. According to the cultural anthropologist Reinhard Krüger, doctors originally applied ointments with the middle finger ( digitus medicinalis ). After this was considered obscene with the end of antiquity, the ring or index finger was increasingly used.

According to US linguist Jesse Sheidlower - a North American contributor to the Oxford English Dictionary - the gesture was introduced in the United States by Italian immigrants in the late 19th century . The first documented image shows how in a team photo taken on April 29, 1886, the opening day of the National Baseball League, Charles Radbourn , pitcher of the Boston Beaneaters baseball club , makes the gesture towards the New York Giants , the opponent on that day.

The gesture was little known in German-speaking countries for a long time. It can be proven that it spread as an insulting gesture from the 1960s onwards. The US singer Johnny Cash ensured widespread circulation through press photos during a performance at San Quentin State Prison in 1969. The gesture was also used in photos by the crew members of the USS Pueblo , who were detained in North Korea in 1968 , to undermine the propaganda statement that the crew had defected.

According to media reports with reference to the anthropologist Desmond Morris , the Roman historian Tacitus already reported that Germanic tribesmen raised the middle finger against Roman soldiers. It was also shown that a pantomime dancer was whipped and banished in Augustus ' time after showing the middle finger to a viewer criticizing him. Scientifically, an origin of the gesture up to the animal kingdom is discussed. The gesture has been observed in squirrel monkeys , for example . As a threatening gesture, it derives from primates and is based on behavioral biology .

Psychologists Jesse Chandler and Norbert Schwarz published a social psychological study in the Journal of Experimental Social Psychology in 2008 , in which they examined the emotional effects of body language and assumed that there are innate and culturally acquired gestures. In a test, while reading a text about an ambivalent landlord-tenant relationship, students were asked to either stretch their middle or index finger; then they were questioned. Those who put out the middle finger are said to be influenced by it themselves in their emotions and tend to interpret ambivalent aggressive behavior of another person as hostile.

Recent controversies

An artistic message from the Czech sculptor David Černý to Miloš Zeman ahead of the Czech parliamentary elections in 2013

Vice President Rockefeller used the gesture as early as 1976. Current controversies are mainly in politics, pop culture and sports. The BBC , for example, named the gesture as a sign of a cross-cultural protest and in 2012 listed the artist MIA , the Canadian politician Deepak Obhrai and the football player Luis Suárez as prominent users .

The gesture was discussed in Germany in 1994 when the soccer player Stefan Effenberg showed it at a game of the soccer world championship in Dallas against German spectators who were dissatisfied with his performance. In 2013, the SPD chancellor candidate Peer Steinbrück showed the finger in an interview "without words" with the SZ magazine , which was mostly seen in the media as a tactical mistake Steinbrück made before the 2013 federal election .

In the same year, the Czech action artist and sculptor David Černý caused a scandal when he positioned an oversized finger on the Vltava opposite Prague Castle - the official residence of Czech President Miloš Zeman .

In March 2015, a debate arose when the Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis was confronted on the talk show Günther Jauch with a video broadcast via social networks in which he was alleged to have shown the finger. However, this gesture was photoshopped by Neo Magazin Royal and never really took place. Then a media-critical controversy developed over journalistic standards.

Other uses

In sign language , the gesture is not part of the repertoire of German sign language . In Japanese sign language, however, it means “big brother” with a short movement upwards.

In 2014, the Unicode Consortium established, in addition to other so-called emojis , a “virtual finger” named in the media under the Unicode U + 1F595 (?) with the official name “reversed hand with middle finger extended” (see also: Unicode block various pictographic symbols ).

Legal assessment

Criminal law

In Germany, showing the stinky finger regularly constitutes an offense under Section 185 of the Criminal Code .

The Bavarian Supreme Court ruled in 2000: For example , if you hold your middle finger in the field of vision of a video surveillance camera ( stinking finger ), you can commit the criminal offense of insulting , although a camera cannot be injured in its sense of honor - but the officer sitting behind it, the According to the court ruling, the technically “extended” form of a camera should be given due respect . It is assumed that the gesture was intended for the officer and not for the surveillance measures, which were perceived as annoying in general.

The Kassel Regional Court decided in a ruling of November 30, 2007 that a motorist would not be liable to prosecution for insulting himself if he held the raised middle finger in the field of vision of a running video surveillance camera, provided that he erroneously assumes “a measuring point is in front of him, which only takes one or more photos with flash assistance in the event of a - not given here - speed exceeding "and therefore it could not be imputed to him," he knew about the possibility that he could be faced with a running video recording that was immediately or afterwards from People are inspected. ”Regardless of this, it is doubtful whether there was any insult by showing the middle finger in the present case, since“ the situation in question here would rather give rise to the assumption that the defendant was with his gestures in the face of better or worse due to the volume of traffic e The maximum permitted speed was more malicious in the sense of "this time you won't catch me" rather than expressing his disregard or disregard for anyone. "

If the act is committed in traffic , a driving ban (Germany) can also be imposed. Up to April 30, 2014, 5 points were entered in Flensburg for a conviction . Since May 1, 2014, insults in road traffic are no longer entered in the central traffic register.

Administrative law

In Austria, showing the smelly finger constitutes a violation of decency and therefore justifies a punishment.

civil right

In principle, if the criminal offense of insulting by showing the stinking finger, a claim to compensation for pain and suffering is conceivable, however, showing the middle finger must represent a correspondingly serious violation of personal rights, which according to a judgment of the AG Pinneberg of October 30, 2002, at least regularly in road traffic is not achieved.

In the employment relationship , showing the stinky finger as an insult can represent an important reason for extraordinary behavior-related termination according to Section 626 (1) BGB .

In Switzerland, the accident insurance may reduce its benefits for the person involved if he has started a fight by showing the smelly finger and he has been harmed as a result. According to the judgment of the Swiss Federal Court of March 22, 2013 (file number: judgment 8C_932 / 2012), the victim provoked the perpetrator to a violent counter-reaction. In the specific case, it was about a parking garage scramble and subsequent brawl in which the victim was knocked unconscious.

Similar gestures

  • Fig hand
  • The Victory sign rotated around the vertical axis , also known as "The Longbowman Salute". In the UK and Australia in particular , the upside-down Victory sign has the same meaning as the finger. With the correct victory sign (stands for victory, jubilation, joy, but also peace) the ball of the hand must be turned away from the own body . If you turn your hand around and hold it as you would with a finger, this is considered a serious insult , which occasionally leads to misunderstandings with holidaymakers (e.g. when ordering two glasses of beer with a hand signal).

See also


Web links

Commons : Stinkefinger  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wiktionary: Stinkefinger  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. Stinkefinger, the one in, accessed on March 17, 2015.
  2. Dieter Herberg, Michael Kinne: New vocabulary. Neologisms of the 90s in German. (= Writings of the Institute for German Language. Volume 11). de Gruyter, 2004, ISBN 3-11-017751-X , p. 324. ( online in Google books)
  3. Mark Morton: The Lover's Tongue: A Merry Romp Through the Language of Love and Sex. Insomniac Press, Toronto 2003, p. 176.
  4. ^ Friedrich Salomon Krauss : Anthropophyteia . Volume 2, Deutsche Verlagaktiengesellschaft, 1905, p. 25. ( see Google books )
  5. ^ Lothar-Günther Buchheim : The boat. Koch, 1973, pp. 104, 153. (see Google books)
  6. Hans-Martin Gauger: The damp and the dirty. Small linguistics of the vulgar language . CH Beck, Munich 2012, p. 71.
  7. The Germans complain differently. In: Der Spiegel. 44/1999.
  8. ^ Anthony Corbeill: Nature Embodied: Gesture in Ancient Rome . Princeton University Press , 2003, ISBN 0-691-07494-1 , pp. 6 ( ).
  9. "Οὗτος ὑμῖν […] ἐστὶν ὁ Ἀθηναίων δημαγωγός", Diogenes Laertios : Βίοι φιλοσόφων VI, 34 ( online on Wikisource , accessed December 29, 2013).
  10. Bernhard Kytzler (Ed.): Carmina Priapea. Poems to the garden god . Translated by Carl Fischer. Artemis, Zurich / Munich 1978, p. 138 f.
  11. History of everyday gestures: From digitus medicinalis to the finger. In: Deutsches Ärzteblatt . 95 (22), 1998, p. [36]
  12. What the finger has to say. In: Berliner Morgenpost. March 13, 2009.
  13. Michael Oricchio: Davis' Infamous Finger Salute Has Had a Big Hand in History; Folklorists: Roots Go Back At Least 2,000 Years To Ancient Rome. In: San Jose Mercury News. June 20, 1996.
  14. Chris Smith: Search for meanings. In: The University of Chicago Magazine. February 2001.
  15. a b c d Daniel Nasaw: When did the middle finger become offensive? In: BBC . February 6, 2012.
  16. Solveig Grothe: What kind of bad finger is that? In: Spiegel online - One day - just a moment! February 26, 2013, Retrieved January 18, 2016 (with photo).
  17. Cultural history of the stinky finger. afp via Handelsblatt of March 16, 2015.
  18. ^ Stu Russell: The Digit Affair. ( Memento February 12, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) USS Pueblo Veteran's Association.
  19. ^ Heleen Groot: On the importance of the public games in Tacitus, Suetonius and Cassius Dio: reflections on the self-description of Roman society. LIT Verlag, Münster 2008, p. 144. ( online in Google books)
  20. Dieter Herberg, Michael Kinne, Doris Steffens, Elke Tellenbach, Doris Al-Wadi: New vocabulary: Neologisms of the 90s in German. Walter de Gruyter, 2004, p. 325. ( online in Google books)
  21. What the finger has to say. In: welt online. March 13, 2009.
  22. J. Chandler, N. Schwarz: How extending your middle finger affects your perception of others: Learned movements influence concept accessibility. In: Journal of Experimental Social Psychology. 45 (1) 2009, pp. 123-128. doi: 10.1016 / j.jesp.2008.06.012
  23. Hans-Martin Gauger : The damp and the dirty. Small linguistics of the vulgar language . CH Beck, Munich 2012, p. 71.
  24. Steinbrück shows the finger. In: SZ-Magazin . 12th of July 2013.
  25. Stinkefinger-Foto - "Steinbrück will never get rid of this picture". In: The time . September 13, 2013.
  26. ^ Finger fingers for the Czech President. In: euronews. September 21, 2013, accessed March 23, 2015.
  27. Trouble about the finger. In: Saxon newspaper. 17th March 2015.
  28. #Varoufake: middle finger in the wound. on: 19th March 2015.
  29. Harald Staun: The Lie of Real Pictures. In: March 22, 2015.
  30. “Worst Campaign Journalism”: NZZ am Sonntag calls for “Günther Jauch” to end. on: , March 23, 2015.
  31. ^ Jörg Keller, Helen Leuninger: Grammatical Structures. Cognitive Processes: A Workbook. (= Fool study books ). 2004, p. 269 ( see Google books )
  32. Now comes the virtual finger. In: welt-online. April 19, 2014, accessed March 22, 2017.
  33. Schönke / Schröder - Lenckner / Eisele, § 185 StGB, Rn. 13; Jendrusch, NZV 2007, 559 f.
  34. BayOLG, decision of February 23, 2000, Az .: 5St RR 30/00 . Website of the IWW Institute for Economic Journalism. Retrieved April 15, 2014.
  35. Insult: the middle finger of a passing car driver outstretched against a speedometer. Judgment of the Kassel Regional Court, 7th Small Criminal Chamber, dated November 30, 2007, Az .: 9012 Js 44909/06 - 7 Ns. Website of the legal specialist database Openjur . Retrieved May 2, 2014.
  36. Stinkefinger is punished with up to seven points. In: Hamburger Abendblatt. January 30, 2007.
  37. ADAC : The new point system - What will no longer be entered from May 1, 2014? accessed on April 13, 2014 (ADAC: The new point system)
  38. ^ Judgment of the AG Pinneberg from October 30, 2002, Az. 63 C 124/02 .
  39. ^ ArbG Dortmund , decision of September 8, 2006, Az. 8 BV 110/06 ; LAG Schleswig-Holstein , judgment of October 21, 2009, Az. 3 Sa 224/09 ; VG Ansbach , decision of August 7, 2012, reference number AN 8 P 12.00441 .
  40. ^ Judgment of the Swiss Federal Court of March 22, 2013, 8C_932 / 2012 . Website of the Swiss Federal Supreme Court. Retrieved on April 15, 2014. See also: Federal Court - Fatal provocation with the finger . Website of the Neue Zürcher Zeitung. Retrieved April 15, 2014.