In Reply to: Birds posted by David FG on November 15, 2009 at 09:05:
: : : Why are so many sexual euphemisms related to birds? Bird, tit, shag, booby, cock, chough, the list is long.
: : I wouldn't call those euphemisms; rather the opposite! But the names of other animals are just as commonplace: bitch, foxy, wolf whistle, dogging, and so on. (VSD)
: And then of course, there are 'the birds and the bees'.
: A thought does occur to me: many (most?) people will never have seen a wild mammal mating (come to that, outside the farming community, most won't have seen a non-wild mammal mating) but everyone has seen pigeons, sparrows and so on thus engaged. Might this have given rise to a tradition that birds are particularly active in this area?
: Though I believe the fact that a number of our cruder words for sexual activities and bodily parts are also the names of birds is more coincidence than anything else: for example, I believe 'tit' as in the bird species is not related to 'tit' as in breast.
I'm not sure that people see birds mating more often than mammals. The birds and bees don't have to be seen mating in order to be used as harmless illustrations of where babies come from--if that's what "the birds and the bess" actually conveys. (What exactly IS the story of the birds and the bees?) I don't know the etymology of shag in a sexual sense. In fact, before the movie, I had never heard the word used in a sexual sense. It's mostly an Eastpondian thing, I imagine, like chough, perhaps. The Western hemisphere is largely free of shags and choughs, whether ornithological or vulgarian. In North America to shag usually means (or meant) to chase down a baseball.
Most of the music composed for my favorite TV series, BtVS, was composed by one of two men, the second being Thomas Wanker. It was only through a fake British character on the series that I learned that there is a sexual meaning attached to the word "wanker."
I subscribe to the coincidence theory. Booby=breast has its own etymology, quite independent of booby=bird. and ditto tits. I had no idea that a chough was anything but a bird.