The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next millenium

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Lokke Heiss

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The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next millenium

PostWed Feb 10, 2016 11:28 pm

Those of you who will forever mentally keep track of every movie that features a Murphy Bed now have a new item to obsess on. For the last two years, I've been keeping track of the rings movie (and vintage television) actors wear. But not just any ring, I'm watching for the very special, very 'loaded' wearing of the pinky ring. I first noticed it when watching the old Superman TV shows - and I noticed that Clark Kent was wearing a pinky ring! Why would anyone who made a habit of quick changes bother with one more item to take off? And then I saw Perry Mason wearing a pinky ring. And then the floodgates opened, and I started to notice a huge number of actors from the 30s into the 60s wearing pinky rings in all kinds of movies, from comedies, action films - you name it and male actors were waving their ringed pinky fingers in it.

And every time I see this ring, I start to pay attention to the character wearing it - and almost every time, the character wearing it is - a confirmed bachelor. That's a confirmed bachelor in every possible sense of the word -Clark Kent in the original TV series is about a confirmed bachelor as they come, Perry Mason - well, sorry Della, but you're out of luck. And in movie after movie, the same code holds up. I just saw Ocean's Eleven (the original) and ringed pinky fingers were waving like flags throughout the picture.

Occasionally I've seen a movie or two where the lead actor starts with a ring on his pinky, and it disappears somewhere before the third act, which is a signal that he might be re-considering his 'single' status. Otherwise it's a very consistent character marker.

So the race is on - like the Murphy Bed tally sheet, how many movies with ringed pinkies can we ID, and is there actually a film out there where a character wears one who is actually happily married? I'd love to know who out there is bucking the trend!
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Harlett O'Dowd

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostThu Feb 11, 2016 3:03 pm

funny you should ask, as I always wondered what *this* was all about:

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greta de groat

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostThu Feb 11, 2016 11:32 pm

I finally saw Moonstruck a couple of weeks ago, and if i remember correctly, when Cher demands a ring when the man proposes, he is unprepared and substitutes his pinky ring as a temporary measure. But your code seems to hold here, since the man is still unmarried at the end of the film (though the ring has been subsequently re-borrowed).

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maliejandra

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostFri Feb 12, 2016 7:10 am

I have LOTS of pictures of Dick Powell wearing a pinky ring, sometimes in candid photos and other times in films. I always thought it was odd and I wondered what the significance was so I asked his children. They didn't know for sure but they said they thought it was his Masonic ring, and that they did not have it any more. He wore it during both his marriages to Joan Blondell and June Allyson so I don't think it was a bachelor thing.

Examples:
https://farm8.staticflickr.com/7130/782 ... acaf_b.jpg
http://www.radiospirits.com/email/news/ ... ell_11.jpg
http://free-classic-movies.com/movies-0 ... l-1948.jpg
http://4.bp.blogspot.com/-ZE26RQ5Tp-g/U ... 03009A.jpg
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Jim Roots

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostFri Feb 12, 2016 7:17 am

I wear my graduation ring as a pinky ring because when I got married I had to make room on my third finger for a wedding ring. (28 years ago, if anybody else is counting.)

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostFri Feb 12, 2016 11:20 am

Jim Roots wrote:I wear my graduation ring as a pinky ring because when I got married I had to make room on my third finger for a wedding ring. (28 years ago, if anybody else is counting.)

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostFri Feb 12, 2016 1:36 pm

Spiny Norman wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:I wear my graduation ring as a pinky ring because when I got married I had to make room on my third finger for a wedding ring. (28 years ago, if anybody else is counting.)

Jim
A graduation ring??


What? Are you questioning my academic credentials?

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostFri Feb 12, 2016 3:05 pm

Well feck me, that really does exist! I thought you were having me on.

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostFri Feb 26, 2016 4:07 pm

I spotted a pinky ring on Antonio Moreno at the screening of IT (1927) last night. He's not quite a confirmed bachelor, but he is supposed to be engaged to Pauline Garon. Of course he forgets all about that when he meets Clara Bow.
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostSat Feb 27, 2016 12:27 am

In tonight's screening of THE THIEF OF BAGDAD (1924), princess Julianne Johnston gives Douglas Fairbanks a pinkie ring. In this film it means just the opposite, in that a confirmed bachelor is now in love.
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostWed Mar 16, 2016 6:03 pm

I'm willing to accept the pinky ring in Thief of Bagdad as an example or Orientalism/Exotica - after all, he doesn't 'come in the door' wearing the ring, and it makes complete sense for him to put it on SOME finger.

I think 'in real life,' the Masonic ring issue sounds correct, in that adult men would want to wear the ring, but the ring finger would not be appropriate - so that leaves the pinky as the best option as to wear to put it.

However - in movies ... the pinky ring code as 'player' or 'confirmed bachelor' seems to be very predictive. I just saw Call Her Savage, and when Larry Crosy's character, out of spite, asks Clara Bow's character, Nasa, to marry him (she says yes, mostly on a whim) the two clench, and we then can see that BOTH characters are wearing pinky rings. I said to myself, 'That's the most predictably doomed marriage in Hollywood History.' And I was right, it didn't it make through to the next day!
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostSun Mar 20, 2016 2:29 pm

Lokke Heiss wrote:Those of you who will forever mentally keep track of every movie that features a Murphy Bed now have a new item to obsess on. For the last two years, I've been keeping track of the rings movie (and vintage television) actors wear. But not just any ring, I'm watching for the very special, very 'loaded' wearing of the pinky ring. I first noticed it when watching the old Superman TV shows - and I noticed that Clark Kent was wearing a pinky ring! Why would anyone who made a habit of quick changes bother with one more item to take off? And then I saw Perry Mason wearing a pinky ring. And then the floodgates opened, and I started to notice a huge number of actors from the 30s into the 60s wearing pinky rings in all kinds of movies, from comedies, action films - you name it and male actors were waving their ringed pinky fingers in it.

And every time I see this ring, I start to pay attention to the character wearing it - and almost every time, the character wearing it is - a confirmed bachelor. That's a confirmed bachelor in every possible sense of the word -Clark Kent in the original TV series is about a confirmed bachelor as they come, Perry Mason - well, sorry Della, but you're out of luck. And in movie after movie, the same code holds up. I just saw Ocean's Eleven (the original) and ringed pinky fingers were waving like flags throughout the picture.

Occasionally I've seen a movie or two where the lead actor starts with a ring on his pinky, and it disappears somewhere before the third act, which is a signal that he might be re-considering his 'single' status. Otherwise it's a very consistent character marker.

So the race is on - like the Murphy Bed tally sheet, how many movies with ringed pinkies can we ID, and is there actually a film out there where a character wears one who is actually happily married? I'd love to know who out there is bucking the trend!


I disagree with these rings being exclusively the domain of "confirmed bachelors" of the movies, you can find almost every male star wore them at one time or another on or off screen up to the late 1930's but I do agree they are a rather quirky affectation and a bit of a creepy one for some reason.
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostMon Mar 21, 2016 6:28 am

Harlowgold wrote:I disagree with these rings being exclusively the domain of "confirmed bachelors" of the movies, you can find almost every male star wore them at one time or another on or off screen up to the late 1930's but I do agree they are a rather quirky affectation and a bit of a creepy one for some reason.


Hey, are you calling me creepy and affected?!?!?

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostMon Mar 21, 2016 9:19 am

Harlowgold wrote:I disagree with these rings being exclusively the domain of "confirmed bachelors" of the movies, you can find almost every male star wore them at one time or another on or off screen up to the late 1930's but I do agree they are a rather quirky affectation and a bit of a creepy one for some reason.


I wonder if most of the pinky rings (or other rings) might have been from the various fraternal orders?

Did men wear rings more often then than they do now? I see men with wedding rings, but I don't very often see men wearing any other ring. (I say this as someone who doesn't pay the slightest attention to male jewelry, unless it's the size of Gibraltar.) I'd think most blue collar men would not have worn rings at all because of the hazards, except perhaps in the evening or for a dressier occasion.
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostTue Mar 22, 2016 6:08 am

Men did not wear wedding rings much prior to, say, the 1960s. I know that sounds like an extreme guesstimate, but my father's generation simply did not. (He was born in the 1920s.)

If they wore a ring, it would be a fraternal order ring, or a signet ring, or some kind of showy ring to display their wealth and impress others. They certainly wouldn't have worn a ring with their astrology sign on it.

My grandfather had a smallish signet ring with his initials on it. Those were the days when you sealed letter envelopes with a drop of wax. With a signet ring, you pressed your initials into the wax. I inherited this ring, but alas, it is way too small for me (when he died, his widow had it shrunk so she could wear it on her pinky), and I don't have any letter-sealing wax anyway.

Side anecdote: my grandfather's initials were W.A.S.P., so my Dad called him "Buzz".

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostTue Mar 22, 2016 9:37 am

Jim Roots wrote:Men did not wear wedding rings much prior to, say, the 1960s. I know that sounds like an extreme guesstimate, but my father's generation simply did not. (He was born in the 1920s.)

If they wore a ring, it would be a fraternal order ring, or a signet ring, or some kind of showy ring to display their wealth and impress others. They certainly wouldn't have worn a ring with their astrology sign on it.

(snip)

Jim


My Dad wore his wedding ring, and he was born in 1917! You Canadians are such scamps. But I don't know if he wore it during his first...and second...marriages, when he was working for Union Pacific. That would have been very dangerous, I'd think.

So I wonder if the pinky ring (or any ring, for that matter) indicates something more economic? Like "here is a guy who does not work with his hands?"
Fred
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostTue Mar 22, 2016 9:46 am

Frederica wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:Men did not wear wedding rings much prior to, say, the 1960s. I know that sounds like an extreme guesstimate, but my father's generation simply did not. (He was born in the 1920s.)

If they wore a ring, it would be a fraternal order ring, or a signet ring, or some kind of showy ring to display their wealth and impress others. They certainly wouldn't have worn a ring with their astrology sign on it.

(snip)

Jim


My Dad wore his wedding ring, and he was born in 1917! You Canadians are such scamps. But I don't know if he wore it during his first...and second...marriages, when he was working for Union Pacific. That would have been very dangerous, I'd think.

So I wonder if the pinky ring (or any ring, for that matter) indicates something more economic? Like "here is a guy who does not work with his hands?"


I think it's saying "My hands are big and you know what that means!"

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostTue Mar 22, 2016 10:41 am

boblipton wrote:
Frederica wrote:
So I wonder if the pinky ring (or any ring, for that matter) indicates something more economic? Like "here is a guy who does not work with his hands?"


I think it's saying "My hands are big and you know what that means!"

Bob


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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostTue Mar 22, 2016 11:26 am

Frederica wrote:
boblipton wrote:
Frederica wrote:
So I wonder if the pinky ring (or any ring, for that matter) indicates something more economic? Like "here is a guy who does not work with his hands?"


I think it's saying "My hands are big and you know what that means!"

Bob


"I have a difficult time finding gloves?"


That too.

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostTue Mar 22, 2016 11:38 am

Frederica wrote:
So I wonder if the pinky ring (or any ring, for that matter) indicates something more economic? Like "here is a guy who does not work with his hands?"


I suspect that's a lot of it, which may explain the urbane and/or effete association with it.

The pinky ring has long had a Lowell Sherman-y vibe to me.
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostWed Mar 23, 2016 6:08 am

boblipton wrote:I think it's saying "My hands are big and you know what that means!"

Bob


[Looks at own hands. Pause.]

Can we move on to another topic?

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostWed Mar 23, 2016 6:18 am

Frederica wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:Men did not wear wedding rings much prior to, say, the 1960s. I know that sounds like an extreme guesstimate, but my father's generation simply did not. (He was born in the 1920s.)

If they wore a ring, it would be a fraternal order ring, or a signet ring, or some kind of showy ring to display their wealth and impress others. They certainly wouldn't have worn a ring with their astrology sign on it.

(snip)

Jim


My Dad wore his wedding ring, and he was born in 1917! You Canadians are such scamps. But I don't know if he wore it during his first...and second...marriages, when he was working for Union Pacific. That would have been very dangerous, I'd think.

So I wonder if the pinky ring (or any ring, for that matter) indicates something more economic? Like "here is a guy who does not work with his hands?"


I made a crazy mistake, and may the spirit of my father forgive me! He was born in 1915. By the end of the 1920s, he was already out of school and working at National Cash Register. He didn't get married until 1946. Never wore a ring in his life, and yes, he considered male jewellery effete.

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostWed Mar 23, 2016 10:58 am

Jim Roots wrote:
I made a crazy mistake, and may the spirit of my father forgive me! He was born in 1915. By the end of the 1920s, he was already out of school and working at National Cash Register. He didn't get married until 1946. Never wore a ring in his life, and yes, he considered male jewellery effete.

Jim


Did he wear a watch? I don't know if men considered watches as "jewelry." I have my Dad's railroad watch, which he wore all the time. As to the ring thing...I sorta forgot he accidentally cut off two of his fingers, which may well have affected his interest in rings. (They reattached them, but still, they were no longer the attractive digits they had been.)

Valentino was certainly criticized as being effete, for many reasons, but one was for wearing unmasculine jewelry, specifically his slave bracelet.

How about tie clips? Now that I think about it, weren't there bits of jewelry that were specifically male, tie clips, shirt studs, cuff links, that wouldn't have been considered effete?
Fred
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostWed Mar 23, 2016 11:19 am

Frederica wrote:
Jim Roots wrote:
I made a crazy mistake, and may the spirit of my father forgive me! He was born in 1915. By the end of the 1920s, he was already out of school and working at National Cash Register. He didn't get married until 1946. Never wore a ring in his life, and yes, he considered male jewellery effete.

Jim


Did he wear a watch? I don't know if men considered watches as "jewelry." I have my Dad's railroad watch, which he wore all the time. As to the ring thing...I sorta forgot he accidentally cut off two of his fingers, which may well have affected his interest in rings. (They reattached them, but still, they were no longer the attractive digits they had been.)

Valentino was certainly criticized as being effete, for many reasons, but one was for wearing unmasculine jewelry, specifically his slave bracelet.

How about tie clips? Now that I think about it, weren't there bits of jewelry that were specifically male, tie clips, shirt studs, cuff links, that wouldn't have been considered effete?


He wore a wristwatch because he became an independent professional photographer in very high demand for weddings and portraits, and he had to manage his time carefully. But I don't think he ever liked it. He kept it hidden under his shirtsleeves. (I'm thinking of that point only because of personal contrast: I cannot stand to have my wrists covered and always roll up my sleeves, or if they're elasticized -- e.g., sweatshirts -- push them up my arms to the elbows.)

Tie clips? You're talking to a guy who, right now, is sporting a chain-loop clip circa 1930, which I chose this morning over my 1945 tie pin and my gen-you-wine 1960 clips (3 of them) which I got as a young scamp and have worn ever since. I didn't keep the clips because I foresaw the day Mad Men would make them cool again; I kept them because I can't abide having my tie flopping and swinging all over the place and getting in my way.

My boyhood clips came in traditional (at that time) tie-clip-and-cuff-links little boxes. Yes, I also still have the cuff links! But haven't worn any since I was about six years old, because around that time they more or less stopped making French cuffs except for millionaires. (I invite you to pause here and picture a six-year-old boy wearing French cuffs. Is he cool or not?) In the Forties and Fifties when cuffs came without buttons but with buttonholes, my Dad had cuff links like all other men. Unlike pinkie rings, it wasn't optional.

I have the pair of collar studs he wore for his wedding, but have never in my life seen a shirt that used them, and I don't think I would know how to manage them anyway, despite studying silent comedies to learn how not to use them.

Say, am I aging myself here?

Jim
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostWed Mar 23, 2016 11:37 am

I think, Fred, that in this case, you've seen too many Society dramas. Jewelry served not just as adornment, but as a class marker The wrist watch was just coming into some prominence about 1915; a pocket watch might be suitable for a man, but it was also a practical tool if you needed to know what the time was -- hence the train conductor's turnip. A good watch was also considered a suitable gift for someone who was retiring after long an honorable service; his working days done, he could spend his remaining days in leisure, hence a nice watch.

As for the other male jewelry you cite -- tie pins and shirt studs..... have you never seen a movie in which the man takes off his jacket, removes his cardboard dickey and celluloid collars and cuffs? What use has some one like that -- even though he dresses aspirationally for the middle and upper classes -- for such fripperies? What does a working stiff, who hopes to get a dollar a day, to do with such things? If Jim's father was taken out of school when he was eight so he could get a job, I think it's a fair bet his grandfather didn't have the money for evening clothes or a garnet tie tack like J.P. Morgan.

Since snobbery runs both ways, it's also likely that even in what we hope were more prosperous days, he wouldn't have such fripperies.

Bob
Last edited by boblipton on Wed Mar 23, 2016 5:56 pm, edited 2 times in total.
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostWed Mar 23, 2016 12:00 pm

Please allow a British member to make an observation. In this country, up until the late 20th century, the "pinkie ring" was a covert symbol of the wearer being homosexual or at the very least, bisexual.

In fact, I believe that is where the term "pinkie finger" originates.

I have no idea if this applied in America or if this hidden signal cooresponds to the actors who have been "spotted" but I thought I would throw it into the discussion.
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostWed Mar 23, 2016 1:58 pm

boblipton wrote:I think, Fred, that in this case, you've seen too many Society dramas. Jewelry served not just as adornment, but as a class marker The wrist watch was just coming into some prominence about 1915; a pocket watch might be an adornment suitable for a man, but it was also a practical tool if you needed to know what the time was -- hence the train conductor's turnip. A good wrist watch was also considered a suitable gift for someone who was retiring after long an honorable service; his working days done, he could spend his remaining days in leisure, hence a nice watch.

As for the other male jewelry you cite -- tie pins and shirt studs..... have you never seen a movie in which the man takes off his jacket, removes his cardboard dickey and celluloid collars and cuffs? What use has some one like that -- even though he dresses aspirationally for the middle and upper classes -- for such fripperies? What does a working stiff, who hopes to get a dollar a day, to do with such things? If Jim's father was taken out of school when he was eight so he could get a job, I think it's a fair bet his grandfather didn't have the money for evening clothes or a garnet tie tack like J.P. Morgan.

Since snobbery runs both ways, it's also likely that even in what we hope were more prosperous days, he wouldn't have such fripperies.

Bob


I can speak only for what my Dad wore, so this is all interesting. And he may have been unusual, in that he was firmly blue collar skilled trade, but at the end of the day after putting the trains to bed, he got all dolled up in white tie and tails and went dancing at the Top of the Mark. Clothes were important to him and he always dressed impeccably. So I wouldn't be surprised if he had all the natty jewelry.

The watch wasn't pocket, btw--it's a wristwatch.
Fred
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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostWed Mar 23, 2016 2:02 pm

brendangcarroll wrote:Please allow a British member to make an observation. In this country, up until the late 20th century, the "pinkie ring" was a covert symbol of the wearer being homosexual or at the very least, bisexual.

In fact, I believe that is where the term "pinkie finger" originates.

I have no idea if this applied in America or if this hidden signal cooresponds to the actors who have been "spotted" but I thought I would throw it into the discussion.



According to World Wide Words, a fine site for discussing the language which separates us -- I've been subscribing to the newsletter for fifteen years and still enjoy it, even though it is now occasional rather than weekly -- "pinky" entered American Englsh from the Scots dialect, with reinforcement from Dutch -- still a living language around Nieuw Amsterdam -- in the middle or late 19th Century. Earliest Scots citation is 1808 and the Germanic root has the meaning of "small"; thus, pinkeye.

Bob
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Frederica

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostWed Mar 23, 2016 2:04 pm

brendangcarroll wrote:Please allow a British member to make an observation. In this country, up until the late 20th century, the "pinkie ring" was a covert symbol of the wearer being homosexual or at the very least, bisexual.

In fact, I believe that is where the term "pinkie finger" originates.

I have no idea if this applied in America or if this hidden signal cooresponds to the actors who have been "spotted" but I thought I would throw it into the discussion.


Good info. We are getting to the heart of the pinkie ring thing (oooh, nice rhyme). Future Pinkie Ring Scholars will thank us, as profusely as the Murphy Bed Scholars will.
Fred
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Jim Roots

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Re: The 'pinky ring' - the 'Murphy Bed' for the next milleni

PostThu Mar 24, 2016 5:55 am

brendangcarroll wrote:Please allow a British member to make an observation. In this country, up until the late 20th century, the "pinkie ring" was a covert symbol of the wearer being homosexual or at the very least, bisexual.

In fact, I believe that is where the term "pinkie finger" originates.

I have no idea if this applied in America or if this hidden signal cooresponds to the actors who have been "spotted" but I thought I would throw it into the discussion.


If you had questioned Al Jolson's sexuality, I'm pretty sure he would have punched your lights out. And that pinky ring would have left scars where it landed.

Jim
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