dssweet at Okway.okstate.edu
Fri Jan 10 14:57:33 PST 1997
I thought the list would enjoy this bit of humor. Estrill
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Subject: FWD: Pluck Yew! (fwd)
Author: John Mantooth <mouser at cowboy.net> at SMTP
Date: 1/10/97 10:53 AM
The 'Car Talk' show (on NPR) with Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers
have a feature called the 'Puzzler', and their most recent 'Puzzler' was
about the battle of Agincourt. The French, who were overwhelmingly
favored to win the battle, threatened to cut a certain body part off of
all captured English soldiers so that they could never fight again. The
English won in a major upset and waved the body part in question at the
French in defiance.
The puzzler was: What was this body part? This is the answer
submitted by a listener:
Dear Click and Clack,
Thank you for the Agincourt 'Puzzler', which clears up some profound
questions of etymology, folklore and emotional symbolism. The body part
which the French proposed to cut off of the English after defeating them
was, of course, the middle finger, without which it is impossible to
draw the renowned English longbow. This famous weapon was made of the
native English yew tree, and so the act of drawing the longbow was known
as "plucking yew". Thus, when the victorious English waved their middle
fingers at the defeated French, they said, "See, we can still pluck
yew! PLUCK YEW!"
Over the years some 'folk etymologies' have grown up around this
symbolic gesture. Since 'pluck yew' is rather difficult to say (like
"pleasant mother pheasant plucker", which is who you had to go to for
the feathers used on the arrows), 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 that the
symbolic gesture is known as "giving the bird".
And yew all thought yew knew everything!
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