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One of Leo's Tall "Tails'

By Leocthasme

Would That Be 'Tales'?

This is one of those 'Old English Tales' not necessarily reported by Chaucer or some other English Traveling Poet of sorts. This is somewhat of a very true rendering of a battle between the English and the French, way back when, whenever. The story here is an account of the battle of Agincourt, (way back, whenever, in history).

As the story goes, the French, who were heavily favored to win this battle, threatened to cut off a certain body part of all captured English soldiers so that they could never fight again. The English, however, won the conflict with a major upset and proceeded to wave this certain body part at the French in defiance.

So, what was the body part in question?
And, how does it pertain to this day and time?
The many answers to these questions involve etymology, folklore, and emotional symbolism, all of that and, whatever else comes to mind.

In answer to the first question, the body part which the French proposed to cut off of the English soldiers after they were captured and defeated was, of course, the middle finger of the right hand. This was a very important body part, without which it is impossible to draw the renowned English longbow, a very lethal weapon of the English Fighting Forces of that time.

That famous weapon was constructed of the native English yew tree, and so the act of drawing this longbow was known, at that time, as 'plucking yew'.

Thus, when the battle was over, the victorious English waved their middle finger at the defeated French, and what that message conveyed in essence was, "See, we can still ''PLUCK YEW'". And, in somewhat of an answer to the second question, it seems that over the years, some 'folk etymologies' have grown up around this symbolic gesture. And, 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say, such as saying 'pleasant mother pheasant plucker', (which is who you had to go to in the first place to obtain the feathers for the arrows).

The difficult consonant cluster at the beginning was gradually changed and replaced with the letter "F", and thus, the words most often used with the one-finger-salute are now mistaken to have something to do with an intimate encounter.

And, it is also because of the involvement of the pheasant feathers on the arrows that the symbolic gesture is also known as 'giving you the bird'.  

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