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Re: Borrowed plumes

Posted by Baceseras on September 24, 2007

In Reply to: Borrowed plumes posted by Craig Rolinger on September 24, 2007

: What is the meaning of the phrase "borrowed plumes"? Here is the sentence in which it is used: "There are no false colors, no borrowed plumes, no empty pretensions."

Plumes, worn as personal adornment, were in olden days a mark of distinction. "Wearing borrowed plumes" means claiming distinction that really belongs to someone else.

The other phrases in your sample sentence repeat this idea. "False colors" - the "colors" refers to a flag; it is "false" when carried by someone who has no proper right to it. "Empty pretensions" - "pretensions" are claims; although the sense that pretensions may be true is pretty much obsolete, we still hear the phrase "false pretenses", and may ignore the seeming redundancy in it.