Bring it Back: Finger Pointing

by Chelsea Hughes

My momma always told me it was rude to point my finger, so in a very rare moment of obedience, I obliged. It wasn’t always easy not pointing at things. It certainly made it very difficult for me to do dance moves from the hit 1970s film, Saturday Night Fever. I spent years being ridiculed by finger pointers for my clenched fists dancing to Staying Alive.

What my momma failed to explain was that historically, finger pointing was very well regarded. People pointed their fingers all the time in multiple directions at a variety of people, places and things. It was a common occurrence to see people pointing at desirable things in chemist shop windows saying things like, “THAT’S the ointment I want!”. You could walk into any pub in the world, regardless of whether you spoke their language, simply point at the tap, then your mouth, and the message was crystal clear: PUT BEER IN HERE. Even Uncle Sam got in on it. When he pointed at all those young, fit Americans, they felt truly wanted because not only did he say so with words, he also pointed his fat finger straight into their fat faces.

So what happened in the course of history that changed finger pointing from being innocuous and helpful to being dangerous and offensive? Don’t ask me, I don’t know! What I do know is that we need to free our fingers from the hand jail they’re in and bring back finger pointing!

Weapons of Mass Entertainment

Look at these adorable boys, proudly displaying what would become the two most violent weapons in modern society: guns and pointed fingers. In the old days, guns and fingers were used by children around the world to play completely innocent and fun games like, “Who Shall I Kill?..THAT ONE!” and “Point and Shoot”, the latter of which would go on to inspire a style of camera.

Boys in garden modelling jackets & hats
Boys in garden modelling jackets & hats. K E Niven and Co :Commercial negatives. Ref: 1/2-211243-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand

Over there. No, THERE! NO! THERE!

During the mid-20th century finger pointing was used by women to mock the stupid men in their lives. When this man couldn’t find the post office, which was clearly right in front of him, his wife used her finger to sarcastically direct him. The ‘smart-ass finger point’, as it was called, was usually accompanied by rolled eyes and a comment like, ‘It’s right THERE you idiot’.

Couple modelling raincoats

Couple modelling raincoats. K E Niven and Co: Commercial negatives. Ref: 1/2-211342-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

Lil’ Kevin

In a finger pointing stand-off that lasted 6 days, Lil’ Kevin refused to yield to authorities. Negotiation teams worked in shifts to try and fatigue the little guy into giving up his finger. After the sixth day, the police finally met Kevin’s demands for 100 packets of chocolate biscuits and 70 kilos of Milo.

Kevin standing on gate at Woolley's Bay

Kevin standing on gate at Woolley’s Bay. Wells, Robert E, 1905-2006 :Photographic negatives, prints and transparencies of the Mokau and other rural North Island districts, and scenic views of New Zealand. Ref: 1/4-091157-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

For Growing Greater!

This Maltexo advertisement was the beginning of the end for friendly and useful finger pointing. If you don’t know what Maltexo is, it’s the protein shake of yesteryear, except instead of protein powder they use cod liver oil. The premise is that if you can eat it without vomiting up a vital organ, then you’re a stronger person. It obviously made an indelible impression on the youngster in the advertisement because I haven’t seen that much anger in a child’s eyes since Chucky.

New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch :For growing greater! Wilson's Maltexo, the great strength food. 3 varieties - Plain - with genuine cod liver oil - with halibut oil & orange juice. [ca 1935].

New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch. New Zealand Railways. Publicity Branch :For growing greater! Wilson’s Maltexo, the great strength food. 3 varieties – Plain – with genuine cod liver oil – with halibut oil & orange juice. [ca 1935].. Ref: Eph-E-PHARMACY-1935-01. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

A Finger Friend

I think the best way to re-introduce the finger point as a non-threatening hand gesture is to dress it up in cute outfits and socialise it at parties, staff kitchens and Bible groups. It’s also very important that you grow to love your own pointed finger, because finger-esteem is essential to the success of bringing it back.

As a very respected, famous person (and author of this article) once said, “Make your finger your friend, and you’ll have a finger for life.”

Finger

Finger. K E Niven and Co :Commercial negatives. Ref: 1/2-225593-F. Alexander Turnbull Library, Wellington, New Zealand.

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