Senteur de Boue on Archery
by Jean Senteur de Boue, Cressy and Associates
Senteur de Boue recently recounted to us the role his French ancestors played in the famous Battle of Agincourt, which was waged in 1415 against the English. Apparently, the French, mistakenly anticipating victory over the English, announced on the eve of battle that they would cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. This insult would render the English incapable of drawing back the bow strings of their renowned longbows--thereby preventing them from shooting arrows at the French in future battles.
Because the English longbow was made of the native English Yew tree, drawing the bow string of this famous weapon was known as "plucking the yew" (i.e., to "pluck yew"). Much to the bewilderment of Senteur's ancestors, the English won a major upset at Agincourt and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at them and yelling, "we can still pluck yew! PLUCK YEW!"
Senteur also reports that English yeomen used pheasant feathers on the ends of their arrows to make them fly straight. Thus, the symbolic middle-finger gesture of Agincourt became known as "giving the bird".
And yew thought yew knew everything!