I was watching an episode of the Three Stooges where Shemp is a vocal teacher trying to teach some lady to sing “The Voices Of Spring” and she is totally off key and the conversation goes like this:
Shemp) It ain’t good. You’re supposed to be singing about the voices of spring, not the eruption of a volcano. [taps his chest] Give with the throat, not with the bellows.
Miss Dinkelmeyer) Oh! Oh, professor, you want it more like a bird!
Shemp) That’s it. That’s it. Give me the bird.
Now when you hear the phrase, “give him the bird” or other forms “the bird” refers to the middle finger.
I was wondering could it have other meanings since this short was probably from the 30s or 40s
Everybody knows that the bird is a word. (Circa 1963?)
It may have referred to flipping someone off, but I’m not sure that was known as “flipping the bird” in the 3 Stooges era. (It was in 1963, though.)
“Give me the bird” could mean “hand over the thing with feathers” or it could be a double entendre. The only Stooges thing I remember was something called “Disorder in the Court” and ISTR that double entendres were rampant, although not as prevalent as sight gags.
I believe that “the bird” was at one time used to mean any generalized expression of disapproval or rejection. Here’s an example from P. G. Wodehouse (The Swoop! or How Clarence Saved England), regarding someone who just got booed off the stage:
“Bless you, your Highness,” he was saying, “it’s nothing. It’s what happens to everyone some time. Ask any of the top-notch pros. Ask 'em whether they never got the bird when they were starting. Why, even now some of the biggest stars can’t go to some towns because they always cop it there. Bless you, it----”