Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

In the pretty old article of Time magazine, titled “The Outsider: Where Is Sarah Palin Going Next? (July 9, 2009), I found the phrase, “She is a walking middle finger to the BosNYWash elite.”

The text reads:

“She hates on the media, never forgets the troops and is a walking middle finger to the BosNYWash élite. As Rush Limbaugh interrupted his vacation to declare, "She is going to continue to fire up people in the conservative Republican base as often as she speaks to them."

Oxford Advanced Learners Dictionary simply provides the definition of ‘middle finger’ as ‘the longest finger in the middle of each hand.' Though I interpret “walking middle finger’ here as the typical object of mockery, is this popular words?

As an additional question, do we need ‘on’ after ‘hate’ aparently used as a transitive verb in ‘She hates on the media’?

share|improve this question
5  
Since no one seems to have mentioned it, I'll just point out that the "walking" part really means she is the personification of that finger. When we say someone is a "walking" something, it means it is as if that thing came to life as a person and walked around. So a "walking middle finger" is the personification of a one-fingered salute, the embodiment of a coarse insult. –  Robusto May 29 '11 at 4:39
3  
@Robusto-san. Now I'm clear. She is not the object of insulting salute, but BosNYWash elites are. She is a tenacious sender of F-you sign! –  Yoichi Oishi May 29 '11 at 6:41
add comment

3 Answers

up vote 8 down vote accepted

In Western culture giving someone the middle finger - by making a closed fist and extending the middle finger into the air - is a curt way of communicating, Fuck you or Up yours or Screw off.

The phrase walking middle finger implies the person in question inherently is sending a "screw you" message to a group of people due to both her prominence and rhetoric.

As to your question on the use of hating on, it is not grammatically correct, as you note, but it is a phrase that has entered the slang lexicon. The Online Slang Dictionary notes the following meaning (among others, which I've omitted for brevity):

hate on

verb - transitive

to insult, complain, or criticize.

As an aside, Googling "hating on" returns roughly 3.5 million results, indicating it has entered the vernacular. Interestingly, Google Trends shows the phrase had no prevalence until early 2009. However, I'm unclear as to the origin of this slang.

Google Trend for "Hating on"

share|improve this answer
    
+1, nice graph. –  senderle May 29 '11 at 3:09
1  
@senderle: Thanks! And I am quite interested about the origin of the phrase, so much so that I asked my own question on the matter - english.stackexchange.com/questions/27640/… –  Scott Mitchell May 29 '11 at 3:11
add comment

"Middle finger" is a reference to a rude gesture meaning "F- you", at least in American usage. It's usually used with a verb, not just as a noun phrase, and in that usage "middle" is understood: "she gave him the finger".

"Walking X" means being in a near-constant state of X. That person who always messes up projects he's assigned to might be a "walking disaster", the person who's always grumpy and angry might be a "walking storm cloud", etc.

So putting these together, the article is saying that Palin shows perpetual contempt for the BosNYWash elite.

"Hates on" strikes me as odd; I would just say "she hates the media".

share|improve this answer
add comment

There is a particular rude gesture made by raising only one's middle finger. To say that someone is a "walking middle finger" is to suggest that he or she is walking around, making that rude gesture constantly -- in this case, towards the "BosNYWash élite."

This is doubly-figurative language, then -- not only is Sarah Palin not literally a "walking little finger," she is also not actually making this rude gesture to anyone (as far as I know). She's just behaving as though she wants to.

As for your second question, the short answer is no. "Hate on" is a colloquial idiom that has become popular recently. I wouldn't use it in formal speech or writing.

share|improve this answer
    
To further clarify hate on, to hate on something is subtly different from simply hating it. It means to act hatefully towards something. So you can hate on something without hating it, and you can hate something without hating on it. –  senderle May 29 '11 at 3:07
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.