Forefinger and middle finger raised, the remaining fingers pressed into the hand. Today this sign is used all over the world, be it as a gesture of joy and happiness as in the Asian region or with the back of the hand towards the person opposite as a sign of extreme contempt, similar to the German “Stinkefinger” (as is common in England).
People who are a little bit concerned with our history also know the symbol as a peace sign of the hippie movement or as a victory symbol (as a sign of certainty of victory) in Winston Churchill.
It is no wonder that both sources point to the Anglo-Saxon world as the country of origin.
For the history of this gesture goes back to the Hundred Years’ War, a struggle in which the English rulers sought to assert their claim to the French throne by force of arms.
Although the English rulers were able to hold their own on the French mainland for a long time, they always had a difficult position. For they were always far inferior in number to the well-trained armies of French knights.
But the English had a weapon they could always rely on – the English archers.
With their range and the penetrating power of their arrows, they played a major part in the victories of Crécy and Azincourt (one of the greatest triumphs of the English over the French) and were therefore feared and hated by the troops of the House of Valois.
A hatred that led the French to take drastic measures.
Because they had little to oppose this new weapon and its clever tactical use, they cut off the index and middle finger and thumb of all archers they could get hold of (as can be read in Jean de Wavrin).
This made it impossible for the soldiers to pull a bowstring, and they were thus rendered useless for further battles.
The English archers were aware of this danger and as a sign of defiance, perhaps also as a symbol of their arrogance and certainty of victory, they mocked the French before every battle by stretching out their intact fingers to them in the gesture we know today.
A courageous gesture whose echo still echoes through the centuries.