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The Bird Is The Word 

Even though nearly every rapper and red-hatted Fred Durst wannabe regularly flip it , the old middle finger gesture (i.e., "the bird") was around long before the crotch-grabbing set adopted it as their own. However, exactly when and how the one-finger salute originated is a matter of debate.

One theory goes that before the Battle of Agincourt in 1415, the French, anticipating victory over the English, proposed to cut off the middle finger of all captured English soldiers. The French surmised that by removing said digit, the English soldiers would no longer be able to draw their renowned longbow, therefore rendering them incapable of fighting in the future. The famous English longbow was made of the native yew tree, and the act of drawing the longbow was known as "plucking the yew." Much to the bewilderment of the French, the English won a major upset in the Agincourt confrontation, and began mocking the French by waving their middle fingers at the defeated French, saying, "See, we can still pluck yew!"

Another theory posits that a variety of sexual insults involving the middle finger originated long before the Battle of Agincourt, as mention of it occurred in ancient Roman literature. Several references are credited to the poet Martial, who became famous for creating epigrams -- sharp, stinging and usually obscene poems. In one of Martial's epigrams -- which were often about the vices of ancient Roman society -- he wrote, "Laugh loudly, Sextillus, when someone calls you a queen and put your middle finger out." Another Martial poem reads that a certain party "points a finger, an indecent one, at" some other people.

The Roman biographer and historian Suetonius, writing about Augustus Caesar, says the emperor "expelled [the entertainer] Pylades . . . because when a spectator started to hiss, he called the attention of the whole audience to him with an obscene movement of his middle finger." It's also believed that the mad emperor Caligula, as an insult, would often extend his middle finger for supplicants to kiss. So whether it was the plucking English or the vice-ridden Romans, you now have a better idea of who to thank next time you want to tell the driver who cut you off that they're number one.

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