Ancient Greek philosophers, Latin poets hoping to sell copies of their works, soldiers, athletes and pop stars, school children, peevish policemen and skittish network executives have all been aware of the gesture’s particular power to insult and enflame.
"It’s one of the most ancient insult gestures known," says anthropologist Desmond Morris.
"The middle finger is the penis and the curled fingers on either side are the testicles. By doing it, you are offering someone a phallic gesture. It is saying, ‘this is a phallus’ that you’re offering to people, which is a very primeval display."
The BBC takes a look at the historical origins of the middle finger insult, where the first known public instance happened in Fourth Century BC Athens by philosopher Diogenes.
Added: interesting Roman definition of the gesture:
digitus impudicus - the shameless, indecent or offensive finger