News Briefs

A Brief History Of Thumb Twiddling

ADELAIDE, Australia – Most people see someone twiddling their thumbs and assume the person is just plain bored. Very few people are privy to the fascinating history behind the ancient art of thumb-twiddling, which is once again making it’s mark as one of the worlds first solitary sports.

Egyptologists like Alef Bayce, Ph.D. claim that the practice goes back to the days of ancient Egypt. “In those times”, he explains, “the men who desired to become High Priests were known as initiates, or adepts.”

“In order for them to achieve the goal of becoming a High Priest, they had to accomplish certain tasks, among them surviving 9 days and nights locked in the Pyramids, in total darkness, with no food or water, and with only poisonous snakes for company.”

Bayce went on to explain, “ They also had to physically leave their bodies, and travel to the four corners of Egypt reporting on what they had seen in the course of their out-of-body experience.

Those that survived went on to become High Priests, and were given the so-called secrets of life.”

Thumb-twiddling was supposedly started by these very same adepts inside of the Pyramids, who had nothing else to do for 9 days except avoid the snakes.

They said that thumb-twiddling was a spiritual experience for them, and not only centered them and calmed them down, but gave them an inner strength, and a feeling of connection to Osiris, the Egyptian god of Resurrection.

Needless to say, most of the great Pharoahs were thumb-twiddlers, as were other great men in history.

Men like Nero, the Emperor of Rome, of whom it’s been said, “ Nero twiddled while Rome burned,” was a fervid twiddler, … almost to the point of obsession.

Julius Caesar was also reported to have twiddled. He claimed it helped him prepare for battle.

Many other great men, and historical figures throughout history have been accomplished twiddlers.

There had been some decline during the Middle Ages, but The Renaissance, from the 14th to the 16th century, was a fabulous time for twiddling, and many well known twiddlers made their mark.

One of the best known, Leonardo da Vinci, scientist, inventor, and artist was an inveterate twiddler, and was so compulsive about it that as early as 1503, when he first began painting the Mona Lisa, his earliest renditions actually portrayed her twiddling her thumbs.

Noted art historian Alberto Pheligma concurred, “ it was only due to the influence of his patron Giuliano de’Medici, that he was convinced to remove the thumb twiddling.”

Even in this country, the two things you always hear about George Washington were that he had wooden teeth, and that he twiddled his thumbs.

The wooden teeth concept has been disproved. They were actually animals teeth imbedded in vulcanite. What he did wear was wooden pants.   But the thumb-twiddling was right on the money.

If you look carefully at the famous painting of Washington crossing the Delaware, … standing up in the boat, you’ll see his hands are locked together, and he’s twiddling away. He’s also standing up due to the wooden pants.

Custer was a great twiddler, and actually twiddled during his last stand. Eli Whitney twiddled while inventing the cotton gin.

Napoleon twiddled while conquering land for France, although his preoccupation with twiddling was said to be what caused him to lose The Battle of Waterloo in 1815.

Renoir was a twiddler, and popularized it throughout 19th century France.

Famous explorers like Balboa and Ponce de Leon, who were often at sea for months at a time, not only were avid twiddlers, but also taught their men to twiddle. Many diaries from the time describe scenes of scores of men on deck all twiddling together.

Even some United States presidents were dedicated twiddlers, as evidenced by Ronald Reagan who twiddled throughout his entire term, as did Bill Clinton, who supposedly twiddled while he diddled.   There’s a claim not every twiddler could make!

These days, twiddling has once again become so popular that there are actually schools where they offer classes in thumb-twiddling.

The only downside is that twiddling has been known to be addicting, and because of that there are now also 12 step programs for people who can’t stop twiddling. TTA (Thumb-Twiddlers Anonymous), currently has branches in 43 states.

So the next time you’re on the subway and see some guy twiddling his thumbs, don’t laugh, you may be in the presence of the next Leonardo da Vinci.