Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Oct 15 03:27:10 UTC 2008

At 10:19 PM -0400 10/14/08, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On Tue, Oct 14, 2008 at 10:10 PM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at> wrote:
>>  At 10/14/2008 07:41 PM, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>>>Brunvand doesn't use the term. His label for the "fit hits the Shan"
>>>genre is "Stories with Punning Punch Lines." ("If the Foo shits" is
>>>also listed in this category, collected in 1959.)
>>  Aha!  (And I probably heard it around 1961-63.)  If Brunvand tells
>>  the tale, I will be re-educated.  With Laurence's reminder that the
>>  Foo is a bird, I vaguely recall something about flying around in
>>  ever-diminishing circles, and about its fundament.
>Brunvand relates, non-shaggily:
>C55. The Foo Bird. An explorer in Africa ignores the advice of natives
>to leave the excrement of the Foo (or "Flu") bird on him. He stops to
>wipe it off and is caught by pursuers, or he wanders in a river and is
>eaten by a crocodile. The moral: "If the Foo shits, wear it."
>--Oral tradition (two informants), 10 Nov. 1959; IU 1.
>[IU = Indiana University Folklore Archives]

Yup, that was basically the way my mother told it, from around the
same (or slightly earlier) period.  But it was definitely the foo
bird, not the flu bird.  Or the bird flu.


The American Dialect Society -

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