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It’s for the Birds – Pondering Bird Idioms

It’s for the Birds – Pondering Bird Idioms

It’s for the birds. Where did that phrase come from? Why is something we consider worthless for the birds? According to the almighty internet, birds usually eat seeds which are not worth much, so something we think not to be worth much is deemed “for the birds.”

Have you ever called someone a birdbrain? A birdbrain is a person considered stupid or to have a short attention span. Birds do flit from here to there and there and there and there. Whether birds are stupid is up for debate. Anatomically, a bird has a relatively large brain compared to its head size. How well that brain functions, I’m not so sure.

She eats like a bird. Ever been told that? The meaning of that statement is that she does not eat very much and just pecks at her food. Birds do a lot of pecking, but from my observation, they eat plenty. If the bird poop on my property is any indication, they are doing just fine in the eating and digesting departments. I’ve read that birds actually eat quite a bit for their body size.

How do I know that? A little bird told me. We use that saying when a secret source tells us something about another person. The origin of that phrase could have come from a Bible verse in Ecclesiastes about watching your words because a bird in the sky could carry your words to the king or something like that. Some say a little bird told me refers to carrier pigeons being used to deliver messages back in the day.

It’s interesting that we don’t give much thought to the idioms we use. We simply accept them, just like we accept birds and our fancy with them. Certainly many of us have wished to be free as a bird. And we all, at one time or another, have been naked as a jaybird.

Why a jaybird? Bluejays are born with very little down, so that could be one assumption. Most birds are born the same, so naked as a bird works as well. Blue jays when mature are quite lovely and don’t appear naked. Yet I’m not sure what a naked bird looks like. None of the birds in my yard wear clothes.

What about the bluebird of happiness? A song written in 1934 has given us that icon, but bluebirds have been revered for years before that. Native American legends refer to bluebirds as a spirit associated with the rising sun. “Bluebirds fly over the rainbow, why, oh why, can’t I?” sings Dorothy in Wizard of Oz.

Birds of a feather flock together. We understand that species stay together and we say people who have similar characters or similar interests will often choose to spend time together. Bird lovers, for example.

We all know the early bird gets the worm. We call morning people early birds and those who like to stay up late are deemed night owls. Birds are up at dawn, pecking for bugs, seeds, and perhaps that famous worm. We awake to the tweets and songs of birds.

You may be wondering why I don’t explain flipping the bird. You can look that up yourself. I started today with the plan of simply writing about my fascination with the birds in my yard, and how I watch them from my sunroom, almost a bird’s eye view.

I got distracted with these idioms and wanted to share them with you. Now my column space is complete. Perhaps you could say I just killed two birds with one stone.