You’ve been there. At one of those events or parties where everyone stands around drinking tea with their little finger stuck up in the air, possibly because there’s no where else to put it.
Or perhaps the symbolization of your quite visible pinky denotes social status. Like in Downton Abbey scenes.
Actually, it doesn’t have to be held up in full sight at all. So why do we/some do it? I think the link to Downton Abbey gives us a strong clue. The obvious pinky tells us you are of the ‘cultured’ variety of humans, intent on preserving a particular image in all social settings, especially where there are strangers present of equal or particularly higher social status. Both men and women do it, unless you are a man with a farm or football background or a bricklayer perhaps. No need for pretension among these kinds of chaps. Women are, on the whole, more aware of social conventions than men are, for a whole pile of reasons, not the least of which is that women have wider social circles than men. When I was in high school in the ’50s in Mississauga, Ontario, girls took “Home Ec” classes, and boys took “Shop”. These stereotypical finishing programs equipped us for life as a man or as a woman. One of my girlfriends then, in grade 11, was taught how to set a table and serve tea to a group of other people. This included how to hold a tea-cup properly, namely by pinching the handle between your thumb and index finger. Only two, or possibly three digits were necessary apparently. So this left space for the other two or three.
Since there is a natural tendency to let those fingers ‘float’, raising the pinky works well, almost on its own. It is physically quite comfortable.
And the pinky is the only finger really narrow enough to explore ear and nose orifices, and it also makes a good toothpick after a roast-beef dinner.
So raising it publicly may be a way of advertising its importance. The next time you have a cup of tea, especially if you can’t fit your first finger through the handle, stick your pinky proudly in the air in defiance of coffee lovers who use mugs. Cheers!