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Canary in a coal mine

Posted by Taffy Jones on November 27, 2001

In Reply to: Canary in a coal mine posted by JM Goethals on November 27, 2001

: I know the meaning of the phrase, "canary in a coal mine", but I'm looking for the origin -- specifically, first usage (date, by whom, where?). Does anyone have any insights?

I think it's mean of you to keep the meaning to yourself, but my understanding is that it was normal procedure in British coal mines, in the 19th century, to take a canary in a cage down into the mine for the purposes of detecting dangerous gasses - canaries would stop singing and fall off their perch stone dead in the presence of a gas concentration below the levels where it was life threatening to man.