Sunday, November 8, 2009

The history of the middle finger


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 they would be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous English longbow 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! Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, 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! 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 every plucking thing

13 comments:

Rob said...

Great History, Thank Goodness for the English Long Bow!!!

mq01 said...

lol... well, now im sure that i dont know jack... thank you for the history lesson baron. :)

Conan the Librarian™ said...

Sorry Baron, it was two fingers that were cut off, the middle finger salute was unknown in Britain until the US troops came over during the World Wars.
The V sign that Churchill made famous was a reversed version; if you want to insult a British soldier to this day, give him the V sign with the back of the hand facing them.

BBE said...

Got to agree with Conan on the two fingered version of this story but even this story is a relatively recent fabrication. The earliest recorded reference to the two fingered salute comes from a French satirist in the 16th century and there is no proof of it's common usage in the UK before the start of the 20th century. There have been books about this one subject and TV programs (I've only seen the TV programs).

I have absolutely no idea where the one fingered salute comes from but it definitely was not the hundred years war.

BBE

The Peach Tart said...

good to know since I use the gesture so much especially while driving

"Joker" said...

Too bad it's not the true story of the Love Eagle's rise to glory, but it sure sounded good!

Protege said...

Always enjoy a bit of funny history.;)

Peter (Worldman): said...

An interesting story and the lady for sure has a long middle finger.

GMG said...

Hi Baron! Amazing! What one learns coming here... ;)

Blogtrotter finished Turkey 2008 and is back to a gem in Iberia. Enjoy and have a great weekend!

Mad Dog McClane said...

Nice pic!

Isn't that Subrosa?

Looks also strangely like my mother.

Dave and Deb said...

Thanks for the history lesson. You always have the most interesting tid bits to share with us. And this one is a good one!

Dave said...

I was taught at school that it was Agincourt, exactly as Baron describes in his text....C'mon guys, we've lost the Empire at least give us the one finger salute as our everlasting mark on History lol...

Cheers,


Dave...

IowaHarleyGirl (Stephanie) said...

Thank you for always keeping me in the know of the off the wall history that is out there. :)