“Fli??ed me off”

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Sent in with the comment “Who the hell says ‘flicked off’ instead of ‘flipped off’??”

This turns out to be a common question:

Would you say ‘She flipped me off’ or ‘She flicked me off’?
Do you say ‘Flip Off’ or ‘Flick Off’?
Which one is correct: ‘flip’ or ‘flick’ someone off?
I have heard people say ‘flipped me off’ and ‘flicked me off’ when referring to the middle finger. Is the origin regionally based? What is the origin of each? Is one older? One more used (I’m guessing ‘flipped off’ over ‘flicked’)?

Google Books ngrams gives the nod to flipped:

The current Google News index has 283 actual results for “flipped me off” vs. 23 for “flicked me off” (of which 1 refers to the Darrell Issa incident).

So, “flip” is commoner but both are Out There.

Another “Bu?? naked” case — but like the person who sent the query, I can’t recall ever having seen or heard “flick off”.

 

 



31 Comments »

  1. J.W. Brewer said,

    May 16, 2017 @ 8:28 pm

    Not sure if and how this would affect oral usage, but FLICK OFF in capital letters can look strikingly like FUCK OFF (depending on font etc) and I have a vague sense of having seen this be used for plausible-deniability visual wordplay.

    Consider also the “chin flick” gesture used by such distinguished Italian-Americans as the late Justice Scalia, which may have similar connotations to flipping/flicking off, and was the subject of various vintage LL posts such as http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/%7Emyl/languagelog/archives/002988.html.

  2. maidhc said,

    May 16, 2017 @ 9:16 pm

    That’s why comic strips never use FLICK or CLINT.

    Indeed.

  3. David Morris said,

    May 16, 2017 @ 10:50 pm

    Does ‘flick me off’ always involve the ‘one-fingered salute’? I can imagine other flicking gestures (eg one or two fingers flicked from the thumb) or even no manual gesture at all. Compare ‘to give one the flick’/’to be given the flick’, which doesn’t necessarily use a manual gesture.

  4. Chris D. said,

    May 16, 2017 @ 11:03 pm

    “FLICKING me off” and “FUCKING me off” are both rather nonsensical. Perhaps autocorrect is turning flipping into flicking. I do recall a friend back in high school growing up on FLICKER LN. which was an seemingly endless source of amusement then.

  5. Ryan said,

    May 16, 2017 @ 11:12 pm

    Huh. I used to think the expression was “flicked me off”. But maybe I misheard, given that both words can be pronounced in rapid speech as /flɪʔt/

    Also, in line with maidhc’s kerning concerns, I would never have figured out Darrell Issa’s name just by looking at his Twitter handle.

  6. Vireya said,

    May 16, 2017 @ 11:28 pm

    It is somehow mixed up with “give (something) the flick”, which is a common Australian expression? (Maybe elsewhere, too, but apart from the very first entry, the first 2 pages of Google results for “give it the flick” are Australian).

  7. Martha said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 12:03 am

    I’ve only heard it about three times total in my life, but it has bothered me each time, even the first time, which was in elementary school, because it is completely wrong to my ear.

    I wonder if people who say “flick someone off” would also say “flick someone the bird.”

  8. J. Goard said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 12:31 am

    Speaking of weird language in the White House scandal news:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ohY7uY7l7uI&t=3m44s

    “…and make sure that this president doesn’t put any American **live** at risk.”

    Perhaps he was going to use the plural and decided that the singular would have a stronger impact, at the very last moment.

  9. Bev Rowe said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 5:16 am

    Well, I feel very left out. I have never heard either of these expressions. Is this because I lead a very sheltered life or is it a generational thing (I was born in 1935)?

    (Very) small survey: my wife hasn’t heard of them either but our Irish cleaner (20 years younger) has.

  10. Saurs said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 5:17 am

    Sounds like a corruption of flicking the V sign, but Bade appears to be an American.

  11. anon_mn said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 6:29 am

    So interesting! I (24, grew up in Minnesota) have a clear memory that when I first started hearing and using this expression (in middle and high school), what I heard my peers say was almost 100% “flick off”, and I only later discovered that “flip off” is also used. As an adult now, I do have the sense that “flip off” is the more standard, but in my own idiolect the two forms are basically equally available synonyms.

  12. Ginger Yellow said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 7:21 am

    Yes, I’d assume it was a V-sign, without context. Whereas “flip off” I would assume to be a single-digit salute, as it comes across as American.

  13. Johan P said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 8:40 am

    Interesting. Maybe “flick” is unusual because it’s also used as slang for something quite different? “Flick me off”, in my understanding, implies a wholly different and rather more intimate activity, also involving fingers.

  14. Peter Boysen said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 8:50 am

    Another vote for it maybe being somewhat geographic in usage. Also from MN, and most of the people I know would say they were flicked off than flipped off.

  15. Chris Alderton said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 9:06 am

    @Chris D.
    “To fuck sb/sth off” is perfectly cromulent to me. It has two distinct senses:
    1. to get rid of something, without caring too much where it ends up, as in “fuck that off, would you?”
    2. to annoy sb greatly, as in “you know what really fucks me off?”

    It occurs to me that both are a stronger extension of “piss off”.

  16. John said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 9:26 am

    I grew up saying “flicked”, and it never occurred to me it was strange until my wife noticed and started giving me a hard time; I’ve given in now. Central PA in this case.

  17. Karl Pichotta said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 10:48 am

    I’m a lifelong “flick-off”er (raised around Chicago) and I recall once having a somewhat-prescriptivist High School English teacher address this publicly in class (“people sometimes say ‘flick’ and it is wrong”). I guess my ongoing use of “flick” here is just my way of making a certain gesture to authority…

  18. RP said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 10:53 am

    I’ve also heard “fucked me off”, but I’m not totally sure whether it meant “told me [in words] to fuck off” or “signalled to me [via the finger] to fuck off” or whether it could mean either. I disagree with Chris D. that there’s anything nonsensical about this usage. Indeed, given that “flipping” is a euphemism for “fucking”, I’d have thought that the “flip” in “flipped me off” was a similar substitution for “fuck” (though this is not to deny that “flip” might be the original form here).

  19. Andy Stow said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 10:53 am

    They both sound fine to me, and I probably use both, but “flip off” more often.

  20. empty said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 11:38 am

    Grew up (NE US) with “gave ___ the finger”. Later (meeting people from wider area in college) learned that some people said “gave ___ the bird” and that some said “flipped ___ off”. I don’t recall running into the “flicked” version.

  21. Herveus said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 11:50 am

    It’s uncommon (maybe even rare), but I’ve run into it from time to time.

  22. Mike M said,

    May 17, 2017 @ 3:17 pm

    As a kid in California, I first heard (and used) “flicked off” before later realizing that flipped off was how it was most commonly said. I’ve since switched my usage.

  23. J. Goard said,

    May 18, 2017 @ 12:34 am

    @Chris Alderton:

    >“To fuck sb/sth off” is perfectly cromulent to me. It has two distinct senses:
    >1. to get rid of something, without caring too much where it ends up, as in “fuck that off, >would you?”
    >2. to annoy sb greatly, as in “you know what really fucks me off?”

    Wow, I don’t have either of those senses, nor any transitive “fuck off”. Pretty sure I’ve never heard them before. I only have the very different intransitives

    1. to waste time, act pointlessly
    2 (only imperative) go away!

  24. Xtifr said,

    May 18, 2017 @ 1:31 am

    I’ve only ever heard/seen “flip”, not “flick” (as far as I know), but since Martha asked, I went and looked for “flick the bird” and got some hits for that, so it has some currency as well. And the associated images seem to involve a middle finger, so it’s definitely the same thing. (Which was my first question.)

    I was going to ask about regional variations, but I see above that Mike M., like me, is from California, and he’s heard the flicked version, while I’m also from California and haven’t. So that’s already not as productive an approach as I might have hoped.

  25. boynamedsue said,

    May 18, 2017 @ 2:40 am

    Flick off, in the UK at least, has another meaning, which would render it asterisk-worthy in most US publications. Illustrated in the immortal line from the League of Gentlemen:

    “Yes Ross, at home all day flicking myself off to Trisha.”

  26. BZ said,

    May 18, 2017 @ 11:50 am

    @J. Goard,
    I agree with you, except I don’t have your #1 sense. I’ve also never considered that “flip” in “flip the bird” or “flip off” is a euphemism for “fuck”, although “flipping” (but not “flicking”) can be a euphemism for “fucking” as an interjection. Rather, I thought the flipping in question is the literal motion of the finger, which is actually a lot more flicking than flipping. In any case, I’ve never heard “flick off” or “flick the bird”, only flip.

  27. Gwen Katz said,

    May 18, 2017 @ 5:34 pm

    I concur with “rare, but not a mistake.”

    To me, it sounds similar to euphemisms like “heck” or “fudge.” Are there circles in which the term “flip off” is seen as crude, not just the gesture?

  28. Martha said,

    May 18, 2017 @ 8:18 pm

    I’m completely in agreement with BZ, and for J. Goard’s “to waste time” sense of “fuck off,” I instead have “fuck around.”

  29. Lori said,

    May 19, 2017 @ 12:52 pm

    Never heard of “flick off” in my life, and I’ve lived all over the U.S. and am 50 years old. That’s just stupid.

  30. Jack Brown said,

    May 19, 2017 @ 3:41 pm

    It’s a fairly common children’s malapropism. I certainly used to hear it on the playground when I was a kid; even though I knew that the correct expression was “he flipped me off,” I’d say at least a quarter of my friends in 2-4th grade would say “he flicked me off.”

  31. Nancy Friedman said,

    May 22, 2017 @ 10:22 am

    Here’s video of Melania Trump flicking her husband off: https://twitter.com/haaretzcom/status/866661844999712769

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