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The kookaburra lives!

Posted by R. Berg on July 01, 2001

In Reply to: Kookaburra posted by Bruce Kahl on July 01, 2001

: : : : What is the original phrase and meaning? Is it he speaks out of both sides of his mouth? Is it also the same as he speaks with a forked tongue?

: : : : Thanks

: : : Those are two different expressions. I could not find the phrases in any of my references so I'll just give my opinion. SPEAK OUT OF BOTH SIDES OF YOUR MOUTH means be a hypocrite, say one thing to one person and another to a second person. The same as being "two-faced." I think it comes from the way a person talks out of a corner of his mouth when trying to speak quietly. SPEAKING WITH A FORKED-TONGUE means telling a lie. Snakes have forked-tongues so I guess that's where we got the expression. Snakes are often portrayed as deceitful in stories. Then there's the serpent in the Garden of Eden. Indians in old movies are always saying "white man speak with forked-tongue." Some scriptwriter probably thought the phrase had a nice ring to it.

: : : Anybody have any other ideas?

: : I think you're probably right. The writers who use to grind out the old B movies, including most of the horse operas and serials used to make up stuff all the time, some of it just for fun. The word "ungawa" which Indians (and occasionally cannibals or other indiginous folk) would utter as a greeting was (according to legend anyway) created by a group of writers at a studio in Hollywood, who lunched together at a bar on Gower Boulevard. They thought "on Gower" sounded just foreign enough to make into a native greeting.

: : Old time Hollywood was not big on reality checks. As another example, for decades, every jungle scene featured Sounds of the Jungle, which always included the sound of the kookooburra (spelling?) a beast native to Australia....

: Yes, I know that "jungle" sound also. thanx for the info.

The kookaburra is a large Australian bird with "a call resembling raucous laughter" (Amer. Heritage Dict.). Skeptics can resolve their doubts at the San Francisco Zoo by looking into a big outdoor cage across from the orangutans. Hey, how ABOUT those reality checks?