A Questionable British Gesture

The lyrics from the Streets’ songs have enlightened me to a lot of Brit slang, but one reference from the song “Empty Cans” just went over my head.

Here’s the confusing part-- the context is that the protagonist thinks a television repairman is trying to wring more money out of him.

I knew it was a simple case of the power supply gone on the back,
but he’s trying to tap me up for more money.
He says its not like that and I’m like fuck off and die,
And stick up my two fingers and one more to make three.

Okay, not the most scholarly stanza ever committed to the English language, but that aside… :confused:

I understand the two fingers (British version of the American middle finger), but three!? Brits, help us out here…

Simple. Two fingers on one hand (UK insult) and one finger on the other hand (US insult).

I would take it to mean he’s sticking up an additional finger just to emphasise the point.

That, and they needed a rhyme for “money”.

As an ignorant American, I have to ask - which two fingers are rude?

Think of a peace sign or “V for Victory”, but with the hand turned the other way (palm facing you). Now do it quickly with a flicking motion and a few choice words, and you’ve got it. (I owe that bit of my cultural education to Red Dwarf)

First finger and middle finger. Known colloquially as ‘Giving the Vs’.

Used to be known as ‘Farewell to the foreman’

Also known as a ‘Harvey Smith’, after a horseriding celebrity of the same name used it (in)famously on TV (many years ago when such things were rather less accepted).

Well I’m a Brit and I’ve been puzzling that line since I heard it. I like the two-hand theory - flipping the bird is now pretty rude this side of the pond too.

I don’t think I’ve seen anyone over the age of 14 “giving the Vs” in all seriousness in the last 25 years at least.

It’s very dated, barely objectionable, and used more in humour than anything else. Kind of futile. (Ho, Ho. Making this joke before anyone else does.)

And before anyone says so, it’s nothing to do with English archers having those two fingers cut off after being captured by the French. If you weren’t worth ransoming you were summarily executed, not maimed and released.

I guess Liam Gallagher does count as under-14.

As for the OP, I’ve no idea, but I suspect it may be some hint at a crude sexual comment. Or maybe I’m just perverted :dubious:

You do realise that the Snopes article on that debunks the wrong myth?

You didn’t see the odious Kitten going into the Big Brother house last week then? :dubious:

Ah, found it. Heh heh, yes that is doubly silly. “Pluck yew” indeed.


No, the problem with the Snopes article isn’t the silly ‘pluck yew’ thing - it’s that the real myth didn’t involve cutting off fingers at all, but simply that English knights would wave their two fingers at the French, showing off about their superior archery. Nothing in Snopes discredits this.

I wouldn’t bother trying to make sense of anything The Streets say (in fact I’m a bit embarressed you’ve heard their stuff in the States), most of it is simply to rhyme.

And who took it seriously? I guess my “age of 14” qualification equally applies to all arrested at the mentality of a stroppy teenager. That includes Liam Gallagher. :slight_smile: