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Pigeon toed

Posted by Smokey Stover on May 07, 2007

In Reply to: Pigeon toed posted by Smokey Stover on May 06, 2007

: : Pigeon toed

: : I found the discussion on the subject in the archives and believe of being able to offer an explanation (although not precisely matching the wording).

: : Watching how the pigeons walk one would notice that they unlike other common birds stepping ahead put each foot on one line which is the bird's forward "course" (that is, just ahead its beak). I believe this is because they have relatively short legs which do not allow them to make long steps. As a result their bodies make very specific movements (looking from behind).

: : I have a relative question. In Russian this walking manner is called something like "in-toed" and has a reference to a bear-like walking manner. Is there an idiomatic English expression describing bear-like walking manner and, if positive, how does it relate to "pigeon toed"?

: I confess that I have watched pigeons lots of times without ever noticing that they are pigeon-toed, which as I think you note, means pointing the toes inward instead of straight ahead or outward. The latter, when noticeable or exaggerated, is called splayed or splay-footed. You may hyphenate or not: pigeontoed, pigeon-toed and pigeon toed, are all correct. The same applies to splay footed.

: Infants often appear to be pigeon-toed, about which parents sometimes worry. Most of them outgrow it. The ideal walk, according to the school nurse and the gym teacher, is straight ahead, without either pigeon toes or splay feet.

: I haven't any idea how bears walk, and the English language does not memorialize their walk in any expression that I'm aware of.

"To toe in" and "to toe out" are verbal phrases in English, mostly used literally, occasionally extended to inanimate objects. Car wheels and some others normally "toe in" slightly. The front wheels of some tractors toe in visibly. You can say, "He toes in when he walks," rather than saying "He walks in a pigeon-toed manner." I think it sounds considerably more polite.