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
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
And yew thought yew knew everything!