There are some things you learn from your parents, and some things you learn from your books. But there are other things that are straight playground education, like the word "dipshit" and the grand gesture that is "the finger."
I can actually remember the first time I flipped the bird: it was in 3rd grade, and a bully named Michael Lenox had been sticking his tongue out, complete with pulled side-lips and rolled eyes, at me all lunch period. I'd just learned how to flip the middle finger from my friend Heather, who was wise beyond her years, thanks to her older sister, and I decided to give it a go, much to the shock of my third grade classmates, who recoiled in horror, as if I'd just yelled, "You messed with the wrong motherfucker, motherfucker!" from behind the safety of my red Popples lunchbox.
Thankfully, the lunchlady, Mrs. Gibbons, didn't see it, and my classmates, miraculously, didn't tell on me, but their collective disgust and excitement let me know that "the bird" was a powerful communicative tool which should only be used at the proper times. Don't believe me? Observe "the bird" in action, courtesy of Flight Of The Conchords:
As you can see, it's a pretty powerful weapon. It is so powerful, in fact, that the New York Times has devoted an entire piece to its history, place in society, and even its "many kin, including the forearm jerk and the chin flick." The Times piece debates the overall offensiveness (or lack thereof) of the finger and the way society is currently reacting to it in terms of criminal punishments, but any 9-year-old could tell you that the finger is only effective when used properly: much like you wouldn't flip off your teacher in the middle of your phonics unit as a child, you probably shouldn't flip off a cop while he's trailing your car on the highway. Obscenities are marked as such because they denote a step outside of the polite boundaries: there is a time and a place, and as adults, it's best to know what those boundaries are. In other words, have a little fucking common sense, dipshit. *flips bird* *drops mike* *sticks out tongue* * *bows*
PS: You guys? Please don't tell Mrs. Gibbons about this, okay?
Is A Gesture Obscene Or Not? [NYTimes]