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[Tidbits] Archers


I have a pair of yellow gold Archer cufflinks. Quite attractive and
well made. A perfect gift for the cufflink afficionado… especially
when cufflinks were in their heyday.

But here’s the question. What were the archers’ nationality. Were
they English perchance. And if so… what was the bow made of. To the
best available knowledge back in 1415 the English longbow was made of
Yew. And the feathers of the arrows… not depricted herein… were
made of pheasant.

So here’s the thing of it. Back in 1415 the French were having a
little fracas with the English in a confrontation called the Battle
of Agincourt. The French believed they were winning… but to ensure
further victory… they thought it would be quite clever to cut the
middle finger off of all captured English soldiers. The thinking here
was that they-- the English–would not be able to draw back the
string of the Longbow without a middle finger. In them thar days…
the art of drawing back the string of the Longbow was called:
Plucking the Yew… or… colloquially… they would “pluck yew”.

For those of yew who do not yet know where this is going… read on.
To the immense chagrin of the French… the English scored an
important upheaval. To make things worse… in their state of
euphoria… the English began mocking the French by waving their
middle fingers at their vanquished army while wildly stating to all
who could still hear: See. We can still pluck yew.

Now… “pluck yew” is not easy to say. So the beginning consonant
clusters of “pluck” was gradually changed to a labiodentals (Lower
lip touching upper teeth)fricative (Rush of air) forming the letter
"F". And that is pretty much how the words often used with the
one-finger salute came to be.

Wait! I’m not done. It is also due to the fact that pheasant
feathers were used on the arrows that were used with the longbow that
the symbolic gesture became known as “giving the bird”.

And now yew know every plucking thing… do yew not?

This may be a rather short tidbit… but there are times when space
must be conserved in order to pass on vital bits of etymological
knowledge. My biggest difficulty was finding either a bow or an arrow
to tie in with this topic. This was extremely difficult. It would
appear that almost no one bothers to weapons in gold anymore. Who
woulda thunk it?

So… now you know the story… now go look at the archers as they
pluck their yews.

For those of you who are new to this thing called Tidbits…may I
direct you to my home page at where you
will scroll down the left side menu till you get to the area that
says Current Tidbits… and you will see represented on our pages an
image of a pair of golded arches drawing back for the kill.

And there ya have it.
That’s it for this week folks.
Catch you all next week.
Benjamin Mark