A brief history

Isn't history more fun when you actually know a little more about it?

Before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French,anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. Without the middle finger it would be impossible to draw the renowned English longbow and therefore be incapable of fighting in the future.

This famous weapon was made of the native English Yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew" (or "pluck yew").

Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, "See, we can still pluck yew! PLUCK YEW!

Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodental fricative 'F', and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute are mistakenly thought to have something to do with an intimate encounter.

It is also because of the pheasant feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as "giving the bird."

And yew thought yew knew everything.

Post script ... this correction was sent to us for the edification of our readers:

Your article above is incorrect both in the use of the index finger as an insult and the origin of the "F" word.

In England the use of two fingers extended, palm inwards is used as an insulting gesture, not to be confused with Winston Churchill's similar gesture with palm facing out as a sign of victory.

Longbows of the time (1415 Agincourt) were too powerful and could not be drawn with just the index finger alone, the bowman had to use two fingers hence supposedly waving two fingers at the French.

However the use of the index finger alone as an insulting gesture is popular in England but has its origin in the USA.

The use of the "F" word goes back to Anglo Saxon times which of course predates William Duke of Normandy (Battle of Hastings 1066).

Also from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia:

An early recorded use of the 'two-fingered salute' is in the Macclesfield Psalter of c.1330 (in the Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge), being made by a glove in the psalter’s marginalia.[4]According to a popular legend the two-fingers salute and/or V sign derives from the gestures of longbowmen fighting in the English army at the Battle of Agincourt (1415) during the Hundred Years' War.[4][12] The story claims that the French claimed that they would cut off the arrow-shooting fingers of all the English longbowmen after they had won the battle at Agincourt. But the English came out victorious and showed off their two fingers, still intact. Historian Juliet Barker quotes Jean Le Fevre (who fought on the English side at Agincourt) as saying that Henry V included a reference to the French cutting off longbowmen's fingers in his pre-battle speech.[13] If this is correct it confirms that the story was around at the time of Agincourt, although it doesn't necessarily mean that the French practised it, just that Henry found it useful for propaganda, and it does not show that the 'two-fingers salute' is derived from the hypothetical behaviour of English archers at that battle. Indeed, there is no record of this explanation for the V sign before the 1970s.

Also added through corrective correspondence: "It is an historic fact that the one finger salute was common among the soldiers of the Roman Empire." | Search | Ask | Archives | Online Store | Contact Us
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