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"For the birds"

Posted by Smokey Stover on October 12, 2005

In Reply to: "For the birds" posted by ESC on October 12, 2005

: : As I recall, this came into vogue about 1950. Since I was in college at the time, I heard the un-Bowdlerized version. In that era there was still some horse-drawn traffic in rural areas, so everyone had seen birds pecking at road apples. The original expression was "Crap for the birds."

: 1950s sounds about right.

: FOR THE BIRDS - "Worthless; overstated; appealing to the simple-minded. Probably the connotation is that only a birdbrain would go for whatever is being dished out. In J.D. Salinger's 'Catcher in the Rye' Holden Caulfield is quoting and then commenting on a blurb issued by his preparatory school, Pencey Prep: 'Since 1888 we have been molding boys into splendid, clear-thinking young men. Strictly for the birds.' From "The Dictionary of Cliches" by James Rogers (Ballantine Books, New York, 1985).

I've heard both versions, with little to recommend either. It's used in my house a different way. Things that are edible, but not by us alleged humans, are put out "for the birds." I don't offer that as a meaning or an etymology, just a comment. SS