Breakaway Episode 2-The Middle Finger


This week, Ellen and Penn get together to discuss one of their favorite gestures in a breakaway episode: The middle finger! Using work by Jack Katz, they explore why we flip the bird, what a “well-flipped” finger looks like, and the history behind flicking people off. It’s phallic, offensive, and Ellen thinks it’s funny to do in family photos.

Did you know you can reach the sources we cite in each episode at Yup, check it out!


culture, emotion, flicking, flipping, jack, katz, middle finger, profanity, sociology, swearing


  1. Jack Katz, “How Emotions Work” (his section on the well-flipped finger is in Chapter 1)
  2. BBC article, “When Did the Middle Finger Become Offensive?”
  3. New York Times article on why we should curse, “The Case for Cursing”
  4. Article by Richard Stephens, “Swearing Is Actually a Sign of More Intelligence – Not Less – Say Scientists”
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