Tales from

the Loir

A Weekly Column

August 1, 2001 - The Finger

I normally park in the chateau parking lot but today the car was full of things to take up the hill so I parked on the street. After parking, I saw one of those little French cars in the rearview mirror coming at the usual speed of 90 mph. He came to a screeching to a halt before realizing that I was parked. I guess he was a little embarrassed so he gave me the finger, American style. Of course in the States this is an invitation to pull out your Glock and empty 18 rounds into the radiator but I don't think this vulgar gesture means the same thing to the French. Ironically, giving the finger originated in France but it was the English who invented it. Here is a brief history that my friend, Kent Dykes, sent me on the subject:

A Little history lesson for you... History of Giving the Finger: Should be in everyone's Book of Knowledge!
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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 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!

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July 25, 2001 - La Resistance
July 18, 2001 - System D
July 11, 2001 - The Accident
July 4, 2001 - Ange Pitou
June 27, 2001 - Feu de Saint Jean
June 20, 2001 - Geoffroy Martel
June 13, 2001 - Saint of the Day
June 6, 2001 - Escapade dans le Berry
May 30, 2001 - Learning French
May 23, 2001 - Pete and Manny
May 16, 2001 - Les Journees des Aubepines
May 8, 2001 - Armistice Day
May 2, 2001 - May Day
April 25, 2001 - Les Manouches
April 18, 2001 - Trôo
April 11, 2001 - Le P'tit Jules
April 4, 2001 - Men and Their Caves 
Archive of Weekly Columns Jan-Apr 2001
Archive of Weekly Columns from 2000


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