I mean in this sentence "A buzzer sounds sharply in the distance. without looking up, he lifts his middle finger up on one hand and flips 'the bird' , holds it a moment.drops it." I dont know what he is doing.

  • 1
    Where have you been? Sep 18 '13 at 23:44
  • 1
    @kris it is an idiom. You are just wrong. Please, if you are going to deny the existence of a common phrase , at least read the included research before down voting. It's kind of rude. It's like you were flipping me the bird without even hearing what I said. Sep 19 '13 at 10:35
  • 1
    TFD: flip/give somebody the bird (American & Australian very informal) "to make a very impolite sign by raising your middle finger towards someone in order to show that you are angry with them If he'd shouted at me like that I'd have flipped him the bird. idioms.thefreedictionary.com/flip+the+bird
    – Kris
    Sep 19 '13 at 13:36

He is sticking his middle finger up. It is an obscene gesture basically implying that one should initiate sexual relations with oneself.

In this context, he is telling the buzzer to "f--- off," expressing complete contempt for what it represents.

(I'd paste in the graphic, but it wouldn't be terribly nice to my fellow Americans reading the page. That said, if you drive the Beltway here in DC, it won't be anything new. )

  • -1 I haven't checked the reference but are you saying that 'flip the bird' (or a similar expression) means 'sticking the middle finger up' (or a similar expression)?
    – Kris
    Sep 19 '13 at 7:49
  • @kris yes. That is exactly what it means. If you check the reference you will see that flipping the bird appears in the list. Sep 19 '13 at 10:18
  • +1 to counteract the downvote. Answer is precisely correct, that is exactly what it means to "flip the bird". I have no idea why a bird is involved, since the gesture is clearly intended to represent human male genitals, and avians aren't involved at all. <shrug /> Mar 28 '16 at 21:44

I'm not an American, but I'm pretty sure it means sticking one's middle finger up, which is rather rude.


This is somewhat off-topic, but my ADD has kicked in and I must comment.

As a bilingual American (German is my second language), I find it interesting to note that in German there is an insult gesture where one taps the side of one's head or one's forehead, with the index finger while looking at another person. The gesture means "Du hast einen Vogel" ("You have a bird" -- presumably in your head), and signifying that the recipient has some mental problem. This is most frequently encountered while on the road driving a car.

A photo of two drivers "showing the bird" to each other can be found on the German Wikipedia, HERE. That the photo is from 1939 indicates that this is a tradition of long duration. Believe it or not, in Germany it is illegal to "show the bird" to another driver. One wonders how often it is enforced.


Grossly obscene, I agree. Wiki probably has pages full of examples of obscene gestures used throughout the world. I can think of several off hand, but my favorite is when an American diplomat, while visiting Europe, embarrassingly flashes the "peace" sign backwards.

  • If you mean the 2-fingered V sign, I think it is only in the UK where this is offensive. The link also mentions 'giving the bird'. P.S. I'm not the downvoter.
    – Mynamite
    Sep 19 '13 at 9:54

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