23 April 2014

Mommy Dionisia and What the Middle Finger Means

There was an animated but humorous discussion the other night on this DZMM showbiz talk show about Mommy Dionisia’s use of the middle finger to point at the ring while she prayed the rosary during Manny’s recent title bout against Bradley.

Social media, and not for the first time, went into a frenzy about Mommy D’s antics. There were those who accused her of using sorcery so that Manny could defeat Bradley.

Others squirmed because Mommy D’s eccentricities, something Filipinos have learned to tolerate, suddenly had an international audience.

The talk show’s discussion, though, centred on her use of the middle finger and how Netizens went gaga about it. Mommy D, one of the anchors volunteered, had already explained that the middle finger was symbolic of God the Father Himself.


The western method of flashing the finger has always been with the middle finger extended and the remaining four folded inwards towards the palm, as we saw it done in Hollywood movies.
(The top picture, which was one of those that made the rounds of social media, seems to show the pointer rather than the middle finger.)

That sounded quirky as explanations went; so the anchors asked in Brother Jun Banaag, a.k.a. Dr. Love, to come in and shed light on the matter.

Dr. Love’s facial expression already betrayed that he thought the discussion quite comical; and he quickly told the anchors that he had yet to encounter anything that would give credence to Mommy D’s symbolism.

If anything, he went on, anywhere in the world you go, that finger… Laughter from everyone inside the studio.

But just what is the middle finger and why all the fuss about Mommy D’s gesture?

Ask any kanto boy (a street urchin), he with the tattoos and the agua oxinada-bleached hair, what the middle finger means and he is most likely to say, “Pakyu.” That is the closest the kanto boy can get to English slang of the rude sort.

The kanto boy will be both right and wrong.

The middle finger gesture, as a matter of fact, can be traced back all the way to classical Greece. The middle finger was raised to connote the phallus – i.e. the penis, the pride and glory of the male specie – in its erect state.

In this regard, the kanto boy will be wrong.

However, the middle finger was raised to very rudely signify intent to use the phallus on the person at whom the finger was being flashed. In other words, the finger was used to maliciously convey the idea of sexual intercourse.

Seen in this light, the kanto boy will be right.

When I was in my teens, the accepted way to flash the dirty finger was with the fingers to either side of the middle finger half-extended and folded inwards towards the palm. The Tagalog slang for the gesture was ngatngat.

I think but am not entirely sure that the two half-folded fingers either side of the middle finger stood for the testicles. That said, nobody really thought out the meanings of the gesture in those days. It was just one conveniently rude gesture to use.


I have never discovered why because in its normal sense, ngatngat means to gnaw or chew at something, e.g. one’s fingernails.

Thus, when somebody flashed the finger at another person, the word nginatngatan was used pretty much in the same way the kanto boy of the present day will say pinakyuhan. I am not making this up, by the way.

Tagalog is a highly technical language highly capable of absorbing words and phrases from other languages. Is it just me, or does pinakyuhan sound so much more colourful than the original English?

Pinakyuhan. Pinapakyuhan. Papakyuhan. Rolling on the floor laughing out loud!

The western method of flashing the finger has always been with the middle finger extended and the remaining four folded inwards towards the palm, as we saw it done in Hollywood movies.


This was inappropriate, or so I heard someone say in the old days, because it was the western middle finger and, therefore, supot or uncircumcised. Go figure!

If you cannot see the connection, that is because there really is none. Young people just have their ways; and if an explanation is inappropriate, the subject is dismissed.

So back to Mommy Dionisia’s middle finger, with a rosary right next to it, of all things! God the Father, eh?!

Rolling on the floor again!


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