THE HISTORICAL ORIGIN OF "THE FINGER"
This is not meant to be crude. It is strictly for your edification and
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." 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!"
Over the years, some 'folk etymologies' have grown up around this symbolic
gesture. Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say (like "pleasant mother
pheasant pluckier", which is who you had to go to for the feathers used on the
arrows for the longbow), the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has
gradually changed to a labiodentals 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 that the symbolic
gesture is known as "giving the bird.
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