The Northern Bird Goes South

When I was a kid we moved around a lot. I think we moved around more than most people, but I’m not sure how or why I think that. So perhaps I made it all up.

When people ask,

Hey, Michele, where you from?

I usually answer them using the same statement.

That’s a hard question to answer, I moved all over the eastern seaboard.

This isn’t entirely true. I mean, we didn’t live EVERYWHERE on the eastern seaboard. And usually I think it’s too much information for a question born out of small talk anyway, but at some point I programmed myself into saying it. And now I can’t stop.

Usually, those who take small talk a bit further into you’re-somewhat-interesting-and-I-have-time-to-kill talk say,

Oh! You an army bratt?

And I say,

No, my dad climbed the corporate ladder only to be let go once reaching its top.

This is only sort of true as well. I think he was let go because the people holding on at the top switched with other people while the other men were mid-climb. Basically, the French purchased the company – or parts of it – and they must have just got a sick thrill out of watching older American men continue to climb.

I sound hateful of the French, and coupled with the image tied to this post, you probably think I’m directing Toby’s ever so beautiful finger gesture towards the French. I am not. I have nothing against the French.

Now back to the real story.

We moved often. When I was 10 I lived in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Well, to be precise (not that many have ever heard of the town) we lived in New Cumberland, Pennsylvania. Which lay just outside Harrisburg. I loved living there. I played soccer at least twice a week. I played softball. I collected lightening bugs. I played Kick the Can and Manhunt. I played in the Gracie’s pool and fought in the Battle of Beta Vs. VHS. I went to school. I joined the Brownies. I went to church, even. Back then I still went to church.

Our elementary school was small. So when Jon came down with lice and had to leave school until they were all removed and killed from his body we all knew about it. When Kathy was removed for having something go “medically wrong with her arm” (which I later realized was the 7 year olds’ translation for “She was beaten by her step daddy”) we all knew about it. When the new kid showed up, the kid with the black greasy hair, the kid who wore dark cloths and jeans and stuff, and taught a few kids about “The Bird”, we all heard about it.

Kids all over Fairview Elementary adopted The Bird. Couldn’t get to your assigned seat on the bus? Flick ‘em The Bird! Mr. Bell didn’t let you say “Ain’t”? Flick him The Bird! (Behind his back of course. Cuz, The Bird ain’t a word, and you ain’t gonna do it in front of Mr. Bell. Only my brother will understand this.)

The Bird helped us to rebel without causing too much harm unto others. Plus, I could repent for it on Sunday and be forgiven entirely.

So when we moved from New Cumberland to North Carolina, you can probably imagine the number of The Birds I flicked in everyone’s general direction. North Carolina? What the hell is that? And Raleigh? How is that pronounced? Who said? Why?


Why South? I have heard about The South. The South doesn’t like us. I read about it in Social Studies.

Flick. Flick.

They even drew a line in Maryland. It’s called Mason’s Dixon something or another.


I hate The South! I haven’t been there, but I hate it!

Flick. Flick. Flick.

At age 10, the house was packed, the deal was done, our move was set in motion. We were moving to The South.

Now, my parents purchased a book. It was a joke/stereotype sort of book, but even with joke/stereotype books, there is truth. For a 10 year old who is scared to death of evil southern people and how they talk funny, this book was to be memorized. So I read it in my spare time.


  • The North: Hell. Pronounced “Hel”
  • The South: Hell. Pronounced “Hail”


  • The North: Listen. Pronounced “li-s n”
  • The South: Listen. Pronounced “leehsan”


  • The North: Well. Pronounced “Wel”
  • The South: Well. Pronounced “We’ll”

Basically, it was the northerners guide to making fun of as well as understanding the southerner. And as silly as it may have been, as goofy and ridiculous the drawings were, the book was somewhat factual and, dare I admit to it, educational as well.

What it FAILED to go into, however, what it FAILED to tell us 10 year olds about was that The Bird too was done differently. Why would someone want to do that? What heartless bastard gave individuality to The Bird? (With all due respect to the non-hearing world and all those who like to flick people off in traffic, why change up a hand gesture? Why? It’s just a hand gesture. I find it absurd that the deaf from England can’t understand the deaf from America. Need I point out the failed opportunity here? Need I illustrate the fact that WE COULD HAVE CREATED A UNIVERSAL LANGUAGE?) I bet they were French.

Anyway, I digress. The Bird. It was different. And I didn’t find out until a most inopportune time. I was just fitting in with the older, cooler, hipper boys from my new neighborhood. Wishing to impress Jason, I gave Miles The Bird. I did it like this:

(Only without the colander.)

The laughs began. The teases. I can still here them today.

That’s not how you give The Bird! That’s the NORTHERN BIRD! We do the Southern Bird.

More laughter. Everyone was laughing. I totally f’ed up The Bird. And I was ridiculed because of it.

So they taught me.

Learning how to do the Southern Bird is a lot harder than learning how to do the Northern Bird. When attempting the Northern Bird, I have always imagined that the ring and pointer finger both need to pee and my thumb is helping to not have that happen. Pinch. And Squeeze. The middle finger has no other option than to perk up quite nicely.

The Southern Bird on the other hand (or the same hand, it’s up to you) is quite difficult. It’s like learning how to finger dance. There is a very right way to put those other fingers. They’re like back-up singers. And if they don’t just FLIP UP into place, and you have to adjust them using your other hand (like I had) The Bird suddenly loses its punch. The Bird no longer lands correctly. The Bird falls flat with a thud, and everyone points and laughs and bites back the fact that they’re not only indeed still talking about finger gestures, but they’re judging them as well.


  1. I just realized my bird is a combination of the two. I’ve got the index finger cocked (cocked! hah!) but the ring finger is dropped all northern-style. Also my middle finger has a bizarre curve to it at the top joint. My bird is the short-bus version of The Bird.


  2. I don’t understand the colander chapeau, but I know I want to see more kitchen ghetto moves. Did you know in the UK, the ‘bird’ is like a backwards peace sign? The Canadian ‘bird’ would be the ‘imaginary middle finger’ .. because it’s covered in a mitten. If someone’s waving a mittened hand in your face, you’re in trouble. I ramble. I like this post.


  3. You must be from Ohio. Here in San Francisco, instead of thoughtlessly flicking someone off, they discuss how it may affect their quality of life first. Usually, The Bird is put away until there’s a vote.


  4. Even though I’m a northerner, I always thought the soutern bird was cooler. Somethign to do with Billy Jack movies prolly.

    Nice AP story on Boudreaux’s Buttpaste. Projecting $5 million in buttpaste sales this year.



  5. You want to hear something weird? I was just writing a second post about how I have Buttpaste on my legs currently. Something has gone horribly itchy with my legs. You can’t see anything, but they itch and they burn. Buttpaste seems to help. But I’m running low. I’m scared.


  6. Yo! :) Miss you guys. Will you make a visit back to the east coast anytime soon? Keep in touch – matt&amy&jack&emma&thedamndogfletch simpson


  7. Holy crap, dude. I am heading your way in September. Same number?


  8. word – same # – let us know when!


  9. Buttpaste Synchronicity…. is the name of my new band.


  10. Hot. It’s too bad Toby isn’t related. We’d have like so much buttpaste. I could really use an unlimited supply right now. I should write them and ask if people with the same exact last name can get the goods for free.


  11. different birds for different occaisions, i say.


  12. Much discussion, and no mention of the book “A FIELD GUIDE TO THE NORTH AMERICAN BIRD”. This is not about fowl. Everything you’d ever want to know about the finger F U. I don’t know how to post links, but I’ve copied this from Amazon:


  13. funny, I actually learned what you call the southern bird growing up in new hampshire.


  14. Some northerner was preparing you for a second civil war – the battle of The Birds indeed. Sort of like Bring it On, only instead of Jazz Hands, it’d be all about striking The Best Bird.


  15. Mr. Bell had a move called the “Bell Pinch” which was basically the vulcan death grip. Nothing stopped a fourth grade boy in his tracks faster than that move. In my time at Fairview I never was on the end of the Bell Pinch, so the last day of school I asked him to use it on me. He said no, but I pestered him and he finally did it.

    Sweet mother of crap, I can still feel it to this day.


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