Posted by Smokey Stover on July 15, 2006
In Reply to: Ruffle a few feathers posted by ESC on July 14, 2006
: : hello, I want to know the meaning of the phrase " ruffle a few feathers"
: Get a person or people upset, agitated, stirred. It's a bird thing. Found this online:
: Displaying ruffled feathers is a defense mechanism that enables the chick to look larger and more aggressive. If that doesn't do the trick, they can spread the wings for the fully-fledged look.
The user of the phrase is saying he's going to do something he thinks he should do, but that some others will find annoying. You need to upset some individuals (not necessarily setting hens) in order to do what needs to be done. Of course, you can also ruffle feathers through gauche or crude behavior.
To actually ruffle feathers, which normally you would do only on a living bird, you disturb their nicely arranged position on the bird's body by running your hand or some other implement through the feathers. Birds don't like their feathers ruffled by anyone but themselves, for the purpose mentioned by ESC. Personally, I would probably call this type of ruffling "fluffing out their feathers."
I split this infinitive in order to avoid ambiguity. Try it the other way and you'll see what I mean.