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Giving the 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 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 ratherdifficult 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!