phrases, sayings, idioms and expressions at

Home | Search the website Search | Discussion Forum Home|

Naked as a Jaybird

Posted by ESC on July 24, 2004

In Reply to: Naked as a Jaybird posted by Bob on July 24, 2004

: : : : : In Australia we have a native bird called the Kurrawong. He's a large, handsome bird who can be black or grey with some white on his tail, and I think also elsewhere, and a powerful beak, and an impressive song. But he's also trouble. He raids the nests of other birds, uses them and destroys them. Because of that, we try to discourage them (although I don't try very hard really).

: : : : : As a kid growing up in rural Victoria, we always called them Jaybirds. In fact, I never knew their real names until I moved to the city. At our house in the Blue Mountains we have hundreds of stunning native birds come calling - among them the Kurrawongs. When I first called them Jaybirds, no local New South Welshmen knew what I was talking about.

: : : : : Today, while reading a murder mystery set in Minnesota, they referred to the victims as being found 'naked as jaybirds'. So I concluded that a Jaybird might be an American bird. Therefore, I looked up Jaybirds in America. All I could find was reference to Blue Jay Birds. They look absolutely NOTHING like our Kurrawongs, but their antisocial nest raiding behaviour is exactly the same. Which makes me suspect may be the reason we called our Kurrawongs - Jaybirds in Victoria.

: : : : : So - there are two questions here:

: : : : : 1. Does anyone know why we Victorians call Kurrawongs - Jaybirds, and is it, as I suspect, because of their antisocial behaviour?

: : : : : 2. How did the saying 'naked as a jaybird' come about? I mean, why a jaybird, what's so naked about a jaybird as opposed to any other animal?

: : : : From a previous reply of mine in the archives:

: : : : It seems to me that someone said baby jaybirds are especially featherless. Anyway, the "Random House Historical Dictionary of American Slang, Vol. II, H-O" by J.E. Lighter (Random House, New York, 1997) says: "naked as a jaybird, stark naked." It lists as a couple of citations: 1893 James "Mavrick" 27: He will have the humbug qualifications of cow-boy stripped from his poor worthless carcass so quickly that he would feel like a jay bird with his tail feathers gone. 1922 in DARE: I gwi' strip nakit ez a jaybu'd befo' 'e fedduh' grow!

: : :
: : : "it's a sin to kill a mockingbird, but it's ok to kill a jay"

: :
: : Is it really a sin to kill a mocking bird, or was it made up for the book? Just curious.
: The only sin is regret.

I couldn't find anything conclusive about this phrase:

Mockingbird - The title of To Kill a Mockingbird has very little literal connection to the plot, but it carries a great deal of symbolic weight in the book. In this story of innocents destroyed by evil, the "mockingbird" comes to represent the idea of innocence. Thus, to kill a mockingbird is to destroy innocence. Throughout the book, a number of characters (Jem, Tom Robinson, Dill, Boo Radley, Mr. Raymond) can be identified as mockingbirds-innocents who have been injured or destroyed through contact with evil. This connection between the novel's title and its main theme is made explicit several times in the novel: after Tom Robinson is shot, Mr. Underwood compares his death to "the senseless slaughter of songbirds," and at the end of the book Scout thinks that hurting Boo Radley would be like "shootin' a mockingbird." Most important, Miss Maudie explains to Jem: "Mockingbirds don't do one thing but ... sing their hearts out for us. That's why it's a sin to kill a mockingbird." That Jem and Scout's last name is Finch (another type of small bird) indicates that they are particularly vulnerable in the racist world of Maycomb, which often treats the fragile innocence of childhood harshly.

The TO KILL A MOCKINGBIRD Student Survival Guide
ALLUSIONS: mockingbird: a North American bird known for its vocal imitations. See a picture and find out more about mockingbirds.