Ever since we were old enough to appreciate it, my dad has told us the story behind the middle finger. Very proud of our English heritage, we lavished the story of rebellion that characterises the spirit of English people. Way back in October 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt the presumptuous French made it known that the middle finger of all captured Englishmen would be cut off. The English were known for their longbow made of yew wood native to England. The yew longbow is plucked with the middle finger so should captured Englishmen lose their middle fingers they would never be able to use a longbow again. When the English defeated the French they mocked them by making a show of their continued ability to ‘pluck yew’ or pluck the longbow and fight by raising the middle finger and shouting ‘Pluck Yew’ which was taken to mean: ‘Look, we can still pluck yew!’ Eventually the ‘P’ of pluck became the ‘F’ that we use today and ‘yew’ changed to ‘you’ which sound the same.
It is also believed that the two finger sign (reverse peace sign) that also carries the same meaning as the single middle finger also derived from this battle. It is said that some archers believed that instead of just one middle finger the French intended to cut off the 1st and 2nd fingers so that they would be unable to use a longbow.
Whether you use the middle finger or the two fingered reverse peace sign, the meaning remains the same – Pluck Yew!
So next time you give the finger (or fingers) remember the defiant and cocky English who developed it to mock their enemies’ loss and glorify their nation’s prowess.