This one seems to be hitting the net in force. I received it from three
different sources within a couple day span! So, if you have seen it, or
worse yet, were one of the many who sent it to me, my apologies. I'm sure
you know where that DELETE key is by now...



The 'Car Talk' show (on NPR) with Click and Clack, the Tappet Brothers, has 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".