|"Peace!" or "Victory!" depending on context|
See the difference? Knowing this may save your life in a pub in any part of the former British Empire.
Make sure the palm of your hand is facing the bar keep when you order two beers in Australia or the next thing you hear may be, "Right! That's it for him then!"
We all know that the Peace sign arose in the '60s in the United States as part of the opposition to nuclear weapons proliferation and the Viet Nam War, but where did the two-fingered insult come from?
According to Beachcombing's Bizarre History :
There is a charming origin story that has become better and better known in the last generation. The English in their fourteenth and fifteenth century campaigns fought and annihilated the French – Crecy, Poitiers, Agincourt… – with use of the longbow. Allegedly the English, knowing the value of the longbow, would not kill any French peasants that they captured, but chop off their two bow fingers making it impossible for them to use the weapon. The two finger salute became then a pre-battle greeting to the fingerless French.
It is a charming, delightful and improbable story.
Improbable because (i) the French did not particularly employ the longbow – if the story had been about Welsh peasants it would have been another matter and (ii) because it is too beautiful – Beachcombing has learnt, in the last year, that the more satisfying a story the less likely it is to be true. And (iii) because,allegedly, the two finger salute appears in the early fourteenth-century Macclesfield Psalter – though Beachcombing is suspicious because he cannot track this image down and after this a recorded use of the two finger salute does not appear before the very early twentieth century.
None the less, it is still a charming story. I suspect however, that the rude gesture is merely a stylistic representation of parted legs. The charming story, being much more interesting, will no doubt endure.
A final note.
United States president George H. W. Bush, who, while touring Australia in 1992, attempted to give a "peace sign" to a group of farmers in Canberra—who were protesting about U.S. farm subsidies—and instead gave the insulting V sign.
Be seeing you.