Posted by ESC on March 21, 2000
In Reply to: Canary in a coalmine posted by Bob on March 20, 2000
: : Can someone tell me what the meaning of the phrase "Canary in a coalmine" is?
: There's always a danger of toxic fumes seeping into a mine, so it used to be the practice to keep canaries in coal mines as low-tech poison gas detectors: when the fumes collected, the birds died.
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.