History of the Middle Finger

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History of the Middle Finger

Postby crunch » Sat Nov 04, 2006 6:11 pm

I got this in the mail...

"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!


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Postby gabby garcia » Sat Nov 04, 2006 9:03 pm

but not very punny.

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Re: History of the Middle Finger

Postby James » Thu Dec 01, 2016 2:21 pm

That's certainly news to me!
I'd disagree with this on the basis that the middle finger is a USA-based insult. AFAIK, it didn't arrive in the UK until the 1980s.
The most insulting gesture in the UK is to raise the 1st and middle finger together in a V-sign, with the palm facing towards yourself. Winston Churchill (a man well-known for his humour) reversed the sign, claiming it was 'V for victory' at the end of WWII.
The story about the French cutting off the 1st AND 2nd fingers has been around a while, and would seem to make sense, but until the 20th Century, most captured soldiers would simply be executed. What the French do with hundreds of maimed prisoners? Also, there is no contemporary account of such an act. Shakespeare would most likely have mentioned it - he makes a clear reference to Guy Fawkes in "Julius Caesar", and when he writes about Agincourt, he makes a joke about turning tennis balls into cannon balls... but nothing about missing fingers.

So here's a question for all of you in the USA - which middle finger do you use? The left or the right?
I've travelled the world and experienced many different cultures, so I'd be interested to know!
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