The 100 Years War (which actually lasted 116 years) was a bloody war fought between the British and the French. This was the first war in which long range artillery was used, and the first deadly long range weapon to be invented was the longbow, which was invented by the British. The longbow had an effective accurate range of about 300 feet.
The longbowmen were not the most battle worthy men, as they were usually trained to shoot an arrow long distances, and not to fight with close range weapons. The longbow was used in an almost machine gun like fashion. The archer would stick all of his arrows in the ground in order to get to them quickly. He would grab an arrow and quickly shoot at the approaching army, then quickly reload and fire again. He would use his index and ring finger to draw and fire the bow. This was known as “plucking”, as it resembled plucking a stringed instrument.
The French hated the longbow. Whenever a longbowman was captured, the French would cut of their index and ring fingers, so they couldn’t fire their weapons, and hence be useless to the war.
The captured English prisoners returned with nothing left but their middle fingers, and in a short period of time learned to use their middle finger to draw their longbows, and “pluck” once again.
Before one battle, the French, knowing they had their opponent greatly outnumbered (around six to one), had a grand party the night before the battle was to begin. Realizing this, the English attacked early the next morning, surprising the French, and destroying their advantage. As the English realized their victory, they began their victory celebrations while still waging a victorious battle.
One of the most notable celebrations was the dancing and cheering done by the mutilated longbowmen. They would dance and skip around the dead and wounded Frenchmen, showing them their only remaining useful finger (their middle finger), and yelling (in a British accent), “Look! I still have me middle fingah! I can still pluck you!!! I can still pluck you!!!”
This phrase was later modified to something else we say when we give someone the finger…
So the next time someone gives you the finger and says what they normally say, correct them by saying, “Actually, the correct term is pluck you!”, and see what kind of results you get!
It is also because of the pheasant or goose feathers on the arrows used with the longbow that the symbolic gesture is known as "Giving the Bird."
“Look! I still have me middle fingah! I can still pluck you!!! I can still pluck you!!!”
Giving the Bird
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