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Origin of 'The Bird' This universal expression of disapproval, also referred to as "the one-fingered salute" may have originated 600 years ago in France. The story is that in 1415, shortly before the battle of Agincourt, the French, anticipating a victory over the English, decided to cut the middle finger off all the prisoners so that in the future they wouldn't be able to shoot the powerful English longbow. As it happened, the English were victorious and mocked the French by waving their middle fingers, still attached to their hands of course, at the French. Calling it "The Bird" resulted as a reference to the feathers used to fletch the English arrows. Since first hearing of this explanation, I've also hear that the original English response was to wave both the index and middle finger in a "V" at the French. Somewhere, the index was dropped.

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   Origin of 'The Bird'

While watching episode two of Jeeves and Wooster written by Wodehouse around the 1920s, I noticed that Wooster mentioned a crowd of people would probably give his friend "the bird" in an unfavorable response to a prank Wooster had set up. This utterance was made quite calmly in the presence of a lady who would have certainly been insulted by it if it had then expressed the crude meaning it carries today. This suggests that the current vulgar definition for "the bird" is a fairly recent development, one I fear that supports the supposition that the human race is allowing itself to coarsen with time.

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