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The 'v' sign

Posted by James Briggs on January 19, 2003

In Reply to: The 'v' sign posted by alan on January 19, 2003

: Perhaps the most common British phrase , even if it is not spoken but indicated by raising two spread fingers in a similar fashion and meaning two the American 'one finger salute'.
: It is said to have originated during the Napoleonic wars when Napoleon so frustrated with the devastating effect the British archers were having in battle that he promised that any captured British archer would have his two firing fingers chopped off , in defiance the British archers stood on a hill and raised two fingers in the direction of the enemy soldiers and shouted F**k off thus connecting the word and the sign.

Although he certain origin is unknown, a highly likely basis takes us back to the Hundred Years' War between England and France in the 14th and 15th centuries - much earlier than Napoleon, by which time archers were virtually redundant! Captured 'English' archers who, it seems, were actually mainly Welsh, had the first two fingers of their right hand cut off so that they couldn't take part in future battles. As a defiant riposte, after felling a French soldier with an arrow, an archer would raise his two fingers, just to show that he was still in the game. The battle where this first happened was likely to have been Crécy in 1346.