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#126002 - 03/24/04 09:28 PM Fig giving  
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Father Steve Offline
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What, please, is the origin of the expression "don't give a fig"? Why "a fig?"




#126003 - 03/24/04 09:50 PM Re: Fig giving  
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The 'Fig'
There was another, and less openly apparent, form of the phallus, which has lasted as an amulet during almost innumerable ages. The ancients had two forms of what antiquaries have named the phallic hand, one in which the middle finger was extended at length, and the thumb and other fingers doubled up, while in the other the whole hand was closed, but the thumb was passed between the first and middle




#126004 - 03/24/04 09:56 PM Re: Fig giving  
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Is THIS the source of the expression? Seriously?


#126005 - 03/24/04 10:06 PM Re: Fig giving  
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Well, the French say faire la figue, the Italians fare la figa, and the Spanish dar la higa. (Make or give a fig.) The Elizabethans called it the figo or the fig of Spain; cf. Henry V, III. 6. The OED suggests that it was a poison fig. The fig is a gesture made with the hand in a fist and the thumb between the index and middle fingers. It represents the feamle genitalia, as the digitus impudicus (or bird) represents the male. Both are signs of contempt. It seems a small stretch from that contempt to nothingness. Remember Hamlet and Ophelia:

HAMLET
Lady, shall I lie in your lap?

OPHELIA
No, my lord.

HAMLET
I mean, my head upon your lap?

OPHELIA
Ay, my lord.

HAMLET
Do you think I meant country matters?

OPHELIA
I think nothing, my lord.

HAMLET
That's a fair thought to lie between maids' legs.

OPHELIA
What is, my lord?

HAMLET
Nothing.


#126006 - 03/25/04 12:20 PM Re: Fig giving  
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The fig is a gesture made with the hand in a fist and the thumb between the index and middle fingers. It represents the feamle genitalia, as the digitus impudicus (or bird) represents the male.

there is a wonderful scene in the movie version of "Wives and Lovers" (i haven't yet read the book), of picnic, with figs on the menu.

one of the gentlemen (i saw this movie more than 30 years ago, and the names of the characters have faded from memory, but this scene is still sharply etched!) picks up a fig, and compares it to a woman.

on the bottom of the fig, he traces the natural lines of the fruit, and compares them to the delta of venus, and then cupping the fig in his hand, he gentle parts the fig.. and exposes the moist suculent flesh inside, which he then presses to his mouth, and using his tongue, he devours the flesh --i was adult (nominally!--but still a teenager) and the scene had me squirming in my seat.

since then, i have always understood why the fist, with the index finger and middle finger split by the thumb is called a fig, and exactly what was meant by the gesture!

----------------------------------------------
meanwhile just speculating, could it be that figs, a common commodity in much of southern europe, where the 'tokens' of the day?

for years, a valueless items, or information (in NYC) have been greeted with the comeback "Yeah, and that and token will get you on the subway" --
could it be figs, were so common, (and so cheap) that to not give a fig, was to not give something that could be purchaced for less than a penny (or the local equivient of a penny)? i can buy dried figs (a bunch of 20 strung together to form a ring, on sale sometimes as cheap as 2 rings for a $1. --40 figs for $1. (and these are imported!)
how much cheaper they must have been locally.

perhaps figs (delicious as they are!) were just a term for "cheap easily aquired goods" and to not give a fig, was a way of saying something was worthless.




#126007 - 03/25/04 12:31 PM Re: Fig giving  
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to err is human, to fig give, divine...



formerly known as etaoin...
#126008 - 03/25/04 12:37 PM Re: Fig giving  
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wwh Offline
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I haven't been able to find anything on the Internet to confirm it, but I have a clear recollection of a story about young Brit wastrel saying: "I don't care a fig what the people think, but what will the governor say?" No obscenity involved, just a variant on "don't give a damn".

I finally found this in geocities Brit slang site:
not care/give a fig (for)(v) :not to care at all.



#126009 - 03/25/04 12:37 PM Re: Fig giving  
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Is THIS the source of the expression? Seriously?

You can cover up a lot of private business with a fig leaf, Father Steve.

But you don't hear "I don't give a fig!" any more ... and that's regretable.

All you ever hear is "I don't give a ....!"

It leaves less to the imagination.

That brings me back to my discussion with The Fallible Fiend (who is nobody's fiend, by the way).

Imagination is all too rare a commodity.

Seriously.




#126010 - 03/25/04 02:16 PM Re: Fig giving  
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The question was one of origin. I'm not saying that people who use the phrase today necessarily know of this origin when they use the phrase "give a fig", but the Elizabethans and the Jacobeans knew its obscene meaning (as did D H Lawrence -- of troy, I, too, remember that scene about how to eat figs). And they associated with the Mediterrranean (fig of Spain, etc.) There are other scatological and carnal words that plug into the phrase "give a ____" with similar meaning of 'not caring much or at all'. Jazz used to be an obscenity, and only a few people today know what it meant. Gives new meaning to "all that jazz".


#126011 - 03/25/04 08:27 PM "I don't give a fig"  
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I'm not saying that people who use the phrase today necessarily know of this origin when they use the phrase "give a fig"

Even if some of us did know the origin, jheem, we are ALL hypersensitive to it now.

Now that we are all acutely aware of the obsolete meaning, are any of us less likely to use "I don't give a fig" in the future?

Pehaps, but isn't this the same thing as losing interest in Dali's oeuvre because of his smell?

It's a good thing art isn't a science.



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