An English alternative to the common middle finger insult.

It seems that this sign is unknown in other countries, this is why -

At the time of the English battles against Norman invaders, around the 11th century, the Frenchies were very scared of one thing - the English long bow.

To help solve this problem the Normans decided that each time they captured an English archer they would cut off his first two fingers, ensuring that he could no longer be an archer.

The English response to this French rudery was to taunt their intimidated enemies with this now characteristic insult - the 'v' sign.

So whenever you see French people remember that we have an insult created especially for them.

The version of this most foul gesture that Hairbear recounts varies, but is commonly believed by most folklorists to be false. The origins of the story are reputed to have been started by Shakespeare’s graphic description of the 1415 battle of Agincourt in his "Henry V." The story recounts that British troops chided their French enemies with the gesture. It would not surprise me at all to learn that this variant of the popular "fuck you" gesture gained its popularity and wide spread use from Shakespeare’s influence, rather than from the battle it was supposedly used in.

Which isn't to say that Shakespeare created the rather universal gesture of "The bird." Indeed many scholars, including author of the book "The F Word" Jesse Sheidlower account that the gesture "Goes back a hell of a long way. About 2,000 years or so. To ancient Rome." those denizens of marble halls called it the digitus Impudicus which meant the "dirty finger" or "the impudent finger."

According to Reinhold Aman, the publisher of "Maledicta: The International Journal of Verbal Aggression," the gesture was meant to symbolize the act of anal intercourse and was used as a degrading threat against another person.

The gesture itself is universal. You may have never seen it, but humans are such close studies of body language that the meaning is well understood. The quick upwards thrust of the hand with both fingers being jammed threateningly skyward, is often accompanied by some verbal assault and facial expression of ire that would be clear even to a child that didn't speak the language.

It's of import to note that the "V" gesture is only considered vulgar when the knuckles face the victim and the palm faces the user. If you turn it around and face the palm towards the victim, the meaning of the gesture is changed dramatically to one of victory, peace, and corporate pandering on nostalgia.

To chip in one last pair of cents on this subject, I can't help but feel that, at least with the origins of the middle finger, the anal intercourse threat must be a contributor. After all, the digit of preference for "getting your oil checked" back home in the Blue Ridge Mountians was of course the long probe of the middle finger. In fact, no other finger was really considered, making the "bird" an eminent threat of anal impalement. Now, to engage in some speculative armchair ethnography here: The Scots are Celtic people. Thus, they were at one time occupied by the Roman empire, and absorbed some of their culture. These Scots then settled the Appalachian Mountains, bringing those celto-roman folkways with them. Thus, there is a direct cultural lineage between the ass-banditry of Appalachian teens and the Digitus Impudicus

The "V" sign has significant meaning across the pond from the UK as well.

Here in the USA it can mean "Victory", like when you win and you raise your hand in a V. It can mean you're a criminal, like when you raise both of your hands in a V. It can also refer to the number "2", like when you want to convey that you want 2 of something and you don't feel like actually saying, "I'll have two, please", or in baseball when the player who just made the second put-out raises his hand in a V, meaning, "In case anyone on the field lost count or whatever, there are now two outs".
The "V" can be used to convey peace, love and happiness, although this has for whatever reason become increasingly rare.

The V sign means 2 drug pills in the Middle East. It is a big taboo to make this sign to mid easterners.

Giving the V sign often has a different meaning to giving the middle finger.

In Ireland, the V sign is often used as a greeting among close friends, or a general response to a minor insult. When used towards people who aren't used to this practice, it is necessary to quickly explain the difference between this and "the bird" before you get a smack in the teeth. The explanation I usually use seems to protect me (most times) from general body-directed harm.

Put basically, the middle finger is an insult, the V sign is a taunt. Imagine you are driving a car and a guy stops really hard in front of you. You scream "SHIT!!" and slam on the brakes, holding up your middle finger to show your anger. Then you see you've just smacked off the car behind you, so you take off fast, giving the driver behind a hearty V sign while laughing insanely. "HA HAA HA HAAA" you say.

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