Saturday, April 29, 2017

Bird Is the Word

Let everyone else talk about 100 days, I want to explore the word "bird."

A Bird In the Hand
"Bird" is one of those old, old English words that predates Germanic (Vogel), Latin (Avem), or French (oiseau) influences. A long time ago some English bloke picked up a little feathered creature, said "I shall call you bird," and the name stuck. There was another Old English word, fowl, that came to be used for farmyard birds.

Pretty Bird
The use of the word "bird" to describe a young woman dates back to the 13th century, although etymologists suspect that was a misspelling of a similar word "burde" meaning a well bred young lady. This usage would be used periodically but really caught on in the 20th century.

Flipping the Bird
Showing the middle finger has long been a way to show disrespect. An early example is Diogenes flipping off Athenians in the 4th century BCE. The Greek name for this action (katapygon) means "given to unnatural lust."

The bird connection comes from hissing bad performances, also dating back to the ancient Greeks, which sounds like an angry goose. In the late 19th century hissing had come to be called "giving the bird." No one knows just how these two signs of contempt merged except it happened in the early 20th century.

Charlie Parker
The nickname for the great jazz saxophonist Charlie Parker is "Bird." There are many story as to how he got his name. My favorite is while touring with Jay McShann in the late 1930's Parker's car struck a chicken, also known as a yardbird. Charlie stopped the car so he could pick up the chicken for his landlady to cook.

No comments: