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The meaning and origin of the expression: For the birds

For the birds

What's the meaning of the phrase 'For the birds'?

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Trivial; worthless; only of interest to gullible people.

What's the origin of the phrase 'For the birds'?

This phrase is of American origin and, while still in use there, has never been commonly used elsewhere. It is US Army slang and originated towards the end of WWII. An early example of its use is this piece from The Lowell Sun, October 1944, in an interview with a Sergt. Buck Erickson, of Camp Ellis, Illinois:

"Don't take too seriously this belief that we have football at Camp Ellis solely for the entertainment of the personnel - that's strictly for the birds. The army is a winner... the army likes to win - that's the most fortunate thing in the world for America."

'Strictly' is frequently used as an intensifier, as in the example above.

'That's for the birds' is a shortened form of the vulgar version 'that's s*** for the birds'. That suggests the derivation of the phrase which is the habit of some birds of pecking at horse droppings (a.k.a. road apples) in order to find seeds. Both versions were defined in an edition of American Speech from 1944:

That's for the birds. It's meaningless
**** for the birds. Nonsense, drivel, irrelevant matter.

Gary Martin - the author of the website.

By Gary Martin

Gary Martin is a writer and researcher on the origins of phrases and the creator of the Phrase Finder website. Over the past 26 years more than 700 million of his pages have been downloaded by readers. He is one of the most popular and trusted sources of information on phrases and idioms.

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