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For the birds

Posted by DH on December 03, 2004

In Reply to: For the birds posted by Keith Rennie on December 03, 2004

: "For the Birds" - What ideas, folks?

: Since when?
: How widespread?
: Who has the happiest definition?
: What imagery does it conjure up?
: and do we all mean the same by it?

: For me, it connotes utterly useless. Off the top, I take it to be a kitchen phrase: when food is so unfit for consumption that even the dog, the cat and the pig would turn up their noses, you throw it out "for the birds" (probably poultry) who, with their weak sense of smell and taste, eat almost anything.

: I did no research. I was rather surprised to find that this rather obvious one is not yet in the Guru phrase book. Google is hopelessly literal. I don't expect it to generate much controversy, but let's run it by in case: Further ideas suppressed till I see what you talented folk come up with.

for the birds (also strictly for the birds) - useless, unreliable facts, unacceptable or trivial, implying that something is only for weaker, unintelligent or lesser people - American origin according to Kirkpatrick and Schwarz Dictionary of Idioms. Decharne's Dictionary of Hipster Slang actually references a quote from the Hank Janson novel Chicago Chick 1962 - " 'It's crazy man,' I told him, 'Real crazy. Strictly for the birds.' " - but doesn't state whether this was the original usage. Brewer's Dictionary of Phrase and Fable certainly makes no mention of it which suggests it is no earlier than 20th century. The term alludes the small brains of birds, and expressions such as 'bird-brain', as a metaphor for people of limited intelligence. From:

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