The History of the Middle Finger-Fiction!

Summary of eRumor:

A story that allegedly gives the background of how we came to use the middle finger as a vulgar insult along with the alleged origin of the “F-word” (we’re a family friendly site!)

The Truth:

Not much needs to be said about this fanciful tale except that it’s nonsense.  This is not the authoritative history of giving the “finger” or of the origin of the F-word.  It’s a piece of humorous writing that has been circulated for years, apparently by some who believe that it is true.

It’s tough to narrow down where the F-word actually came from.  Some sources say it dates back to the Middle English word “fucken,” which, among other things, meant to penetrate.  Others say it comes from a German word, “ficken,” that means the same thing.  There are also discussions about a Dutch word and even speculation about whether Shakespeare used a word that might have had something to do with it.  Along with this eRumor there are also other creative suggestions that have no basis in history such as the F-word being an acronym for “Fornication Under Consent of the King” or “For the Use of Carnal Knowledge.”

A real example of the eRumor as it has appeared on the Internet:

The History Of The Middle Finger

Well, now……here’s something I never knew before, and now that I know it, I feel compelled to send it on to my more intelligent friends in the hope that they, too, will feel edified. Isn’t history more fun when you know something about it?

Before the Battle of Agincourtin 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 they would be incapable of fighting in the future. This famous English longbow 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!

Since ‘pluck yew’ is rather difficult to say, the difficult consonant cluster at the beginning has gradually changed to a labiodentals fricative F’, and thus the words often used in conjunction with the one-finger-salute!

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 every plucking thing!