In Reply to: Yellow hammer posted by Jim Loftus on February 23, 2009 at 10:15:
: While growing up in the Midwest (central Illinois) I heard adults use the words "yellow hammer" to describe an unlikeable person, but I was (and still am) ignorant of the origin or exact meaning. I remember it was used in a context both economic - yellow hammers were poverty stricken - and implying social status - yellow hammers were "white trash" in the social pecking order - but it also could be used as a substitute for "idiot" or, in the Midwest flavor, a "dumb s h i t." I have no clue as to the reference of the color yellow, or the use of the tool imagery in "hammer."
I'm in the UK, and here it's a fairly common bird (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Yellowhammer). But having volunteered that information, I'm going to leave it to US experts to take this further. I do hope my contribution isn't a red herring. (GC)