Canary in a coal mine

Posted by ESC on September 14, 2001

In Reply to: Canary in a coalmine posted by Rita on September 13, 2001

: : Can someone tell me what the meaning of the phrase "Canary in a coalmine" is?

Canary in a coal mine -- Miners kept caged canaries in the mines as an "early warning device." If the air was bad enough to kill the canary, it would soon be bad enough to kill people. The canaries were more sensitive to the deadly fumes. So their dying would warn the miners to get out. Today we sometimes use the expression in relation to environmental matters. If more vulnerable species are dying off, we could be next.