Can’t believe it’s taken me 20 years to know the story behind that. Thanks to a friend, who I might say professes in the use.
Giving the finger. Yes, it has French origins!
Back in the war days, when the English and the French were fighting, the English had mastered the bow-arrow art of shooting. It was more commonly called plucking the bow. The French were pissed, so when they captured Brit soldiers, they (brutally) cut off their middle fingers, leaving them incapable of plucking the bow. However, the early 1400s war was won by the English. They mocked the French, showing them their still intact middle fingers, which had literally helped them pluck the yew (the bow was also called the yew, after the tree it was made from). So the mockery was accompanied by the phrase “Pluck yew”. Apparently, ‘Pl” was a difficult syllable for the Fr, and it got translated and handed down as Fuck yew (you). And thus the use of the middle finger in immortalizing the expression.