"as the crow flies"

Charles Doyle cdoyle at UGA.EDU
Thu Mar 4 19:42:00 UTC 2010

The OED's earliest attestation of the idiom "as the crow flies" is from 1800. There are a few 18th-century instances, including:

1761  _Gentleman's and London Magazine_ 30 (Dec.) 563:  "Now the country which those Indians inhabit is upwards of 400 miles broad, and above 600 long, each as the crow flies."

1767  _London Review of English and Foreign Literature_ 5 (Apr.) 274:  "The Spaniard, if on foot, always traveles as the crow flies, which the openness and dryness of the country permits . . . ."

There is an old joke (not as old as the 18th century, I'm fairly sure!):  One day a well-dressed city slicker approached a farmer plowing in a field.  He asked the farmer, "How far is it to the nearest town?"  The farmer pondered a moment, then answered, "Oh, I reckon it's about five miles as the crow flies."  The city slicker said, "Well how far is it as the crow walks rolling a flat tire?"


The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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