Derides quoque, fur, et impudicum
ostendis digitum mihi minanti?
eheu me miserum, quod ista lignum est,
quae me terribilem facit videri.
mandabo domino tamen salaci,
ut pro me velit irrumare fures.
Thou too dost mock me, Thief! and the infamous
Finger dost point when menacèd by me!
Ah hapless I, that should be only wood
What makes me ever formidable seem!
Yet will I charge my garden's lustful lord
For me deign robber-folk to irrumate.
Thou also mockest, O thief, and when threatened, dost stretch out to me the indecent finger! Alas, unhappy I! that the thing is but wood which makes me seem fearsome. But no matter, I will charge the lecherous owner of the garden that he may be willing to irrumate the thieves for me.
[1. The middle finger. It was called 'infamous', according to some writers, on account of the custom of the Jews, who used to wipe the podex when they suffered from bleeding piles. This is not so. It derived its name from its resemblance to the mentule, and it is used in that sense here. When the middle finger is pointing, the other fingers are turned inside, representing a mentule with its accessories; for which reason it was thus pointedly shown in derision to sodomites. Martial: 'Cestus with tears in his eyes often complains to me, Mamurianus, of being teased with your finger.' In an admirable article on pederasty in The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night: 'Debauchees had signals like Freemasons whereby they recognised one another. The Greek skematízein was made by closing the hand to represent the scrotum and raising the middle finger as if to feel whether a hen had eggs; hence the Athenians called it catapygon or sodomite and the Romans digitus impudicus or infamis, the 'medical finger' of Rabelais and the Chiromantists--though properly speaking medicus is the third or ring-finger, as shown by the old Chiromantist verses. The modern Italian does the same by inserting the thumb-tip between the index and medius to suggest the clitoris. When the Egyptians wish to represent pederasty, they painted two partridges, who, when bereft of their mates, were supposed to enjoy each other. Pliny supports this statement.
The finger was also pointed at people as a mark of simple contempt. Martial: 'He points with the finger, but with the infamous finger.' Persius says, without any obscene afterthought, 'The grandmother cleanses with infamous finger the infant.']