Etymology of "Short-fingered vulgarian"

“The short-fingered vulgarian” was the epithet hung around the neck of Trump back in the 1980s by SPY magazine, and it remains one of the most euphonious.

I never understood what “short-fingered” means. Thieving? Clumsy?

Google searches bring me back full circle to the Donald. Can anyone who’s come across the phrase pre-SPY please enlighten us all?

“Short-fingered” implies they don’t reach to the bottom of his pockets. That is to say, he’s cheap.

I used to work at SPY. It was because he has (or the editors thought he had) stubby fingers.

Small hands. Small dick.

Long fingers are associated with grace and elegance. Short, stubby fingers are not.

I too remember (and cherish) that descriptive phrase, but you have mutilated it. In its full glory–perhaps lost on a national and international audience–it is “short-fingered vulgarian from Queens.”

I never heard this. It certainly isn’t current in NYC, where the sentence was coined.

Are you guessing or is it said around your neck of the woods?

I stumbled across SPY with their Yuppie Scum issue, probably the funniest one they ever did. (Which also meant that every issue after was a partial disappointment, an irony Graydon Carter might appreciate.) That was the one with the Michael Graves teapot on the cover, which drew my eye because I had just purchased that exact teapot for my wife. (We were the antithesis of yuppies: she liked tea and needed a new teapot.) Like the National Lampoon, SPY had a wonderful few years and then disappeared up its own affectations. I hope your years were the good ones.

For my two cents: everything I’ve read about SPY confirms that the insult was about Trump’s stubby fingers, nothing more.

Yes, I think it was just an irrelevant but delightful criticism to levy on every first reference to The Donald.

Laurence Tisch was also invariably described by SPY as a “churlish dwarf billionaire.”

Actual stumpy little fingers = antithesis of grace and elegance.

Seems reasonable to me! Thanks, everyone.

I never said he was a drug kingpin. I said he was El Cheapo !

Both :slight_smile: “Short arms and long pockets” is an old saying here, meaning a cheap person who won’t buy their round of drinks. ISTM this was a minor variation of that.

Megan Fox has short, sausage-y fingers too. That’s why I refuse to let her into my bed.

That’s OK. She’s welcome in mine.

I thought it was for eating crackers.

As a historical note, SPY was not the first magazine to employ this style. It was stolen in toto from the early Time magazine.

Timestyle, the weird syntax, portmanteau words, and adjective-laden prose developed by Briton Hadden (not Henry Luce), had a similar set of pat modifiers for various celebrities.

Torpedo-headed dynamo Walter P. Chrysler
Hen-shaped Fiorello LaGuardia
Duck-hunting dentist Senator Henrik Shipstead
Eel-hipped runagade Red Grange
Bathyosophical enthusiast the Prince of Monaco (a deep-sea diver)
Wild-eyed President Francisco Madero of Mexico
Sharp-kneed Megan Fox

OK, maybe not that last one.

Maybe for all the coverage of the new Star Wars movie we can resurrect “scruffy-looking nerf herder Han Solo”?

Who stole it from Homer.

Charles Pierce in Esquire is continuing the tradition, by the way.

For example, he always refers to Paul Ryan as a “zombie-eyed granny starver” and Scott Walker as a “goggle-eyed homunculus”.

I don’t think he used them *quite *in the same way that Time or SPY did.

And everybody else these days. I think all the late night comics are now doing it. Chris Hardwick on @midnight keeps pushing the envelope on what to call Trump, with a topper every night.