Taking our “Here’s Why” from the paper to the blog. An explanation for why something is the way it is in the Air Force/military.
Back by popular demand, this “Here’s Why” ran in the Oct. 8, 2012 issue of Air Force Times, with a few additions:
When frustrated with another person, you may be inclined to throw up one of the most famous gestures of all time, otherwise known as “flipping the bird.” Skepticism remains about its origin, but scholars and historians say it actually has a military ancestry.
In “Digitus Impudicus: The Middle Finger and the Law,” author and law professor Ira Robbins writes that the gesture first appeared during the Battle of Agincourt in France in 1415.
“French soldiers threatened to cut off the middle and index fingers of captured English bowmen, because the bowmen used those two fingers to draw their longbows. The English called the act of using a longbow ‘plucking the yew,’ as the bows were made from the English yew tree. When French troops failed to capture any prisoners in battle, the English waved their two fingers defiantly and shouted, ‘We can still pluck yew!’ Over the years, the insult evolved into a single-digit gesture.”
Even airmen used it. During World War II, the 91st Bomb Group referred to the gesture as the “rigid digit.”
“Prominent at every 91st ‘Rally Round’ and Reunion is the large banner with ‘Wray’s Ragged Irregulars’ and a large clenched fist with [a] middle finger upraised, emblazoned on it,” cites the group’s Jan. 1977 newsletter, “The Ragged Irregular.”
“Life members are awarded large models of the symbolic hand, and tie tacs with the same emblem are sported by many Memorial Association members.”