[Ads-l] Antedating Naked as a Jaybird

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Mar 8 19:06:03 UTC 2016

Great citations, Peter. Following your lead I've found the phrase
"naked as an unfledged bird" employed as a description for woods in
winter in 1822.

Date: October 26, 1822
Periodical: The Manchester Iris: A Literary and Scientific Miscellany
Article: A Christmas Visit
Start Page 305, Quote Page 306, Column 1
Printed and Published by Henry Smith, st. Ann's-Square
Database: Google Books


[Begin excerpt]
In process of time, the shades of evening coming on pretty fast, the
wind blowing horribly cold, our horses puffing and panting, and
ourselves moderately tired; after having passed through a country
diversified with hedges bare, ditches frozen over, woods as naked as
an unfledged bird, with here and there a few of the feathered tribe
hopping on the uninviting branches--after all these things, and a
great many more, such as whistling, and conversing together, we
arrived safe at the mansion of Squire Potter.
[End excerpt]


On Tue, Mar 8, 2016 at 1:34 PM, Peter Reitan <pjreitan at hotmail.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Peter Reitan <pjreitan at HOTMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Antedating Naked as a Jaybird
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> I believe most sources date "naked as a jaybird" to about 1900.  I found a =
> couple earlier sources=2C the earliest one (1841) may answer the question a=
> bout why jaybirds are naked.
> "'He that steals my purse steals trash=2C' but he that filched from me my b=
> reeches=2C robbed me of that which may have enriched him=3B but which left =
> me as naked as an unfledged Jay bird."
> Lexington Union (Mississippi)=2C March 13=2C 1841=2C page 3. (Chronicling A=
> merica)
> An early example of the predecessor British expression=2C "naked as a robin=
> =2C" that seems to support the naked baby bird notion:
> "If Sir Thomas adhere to his doctrine=2C and if that doctrine be acted upon=
> =2C he will have the coat taken off his back=2C and will be left as naked a=
> s a robin two hours old . . ."
> Cobbett's Weekly Register=2C Volume 58=2C Number 6=2C May 6=2C 1826. (Hathi=
>  Trust).
> An earlier example=2C "I'll strip you naked as a robin" (Cobbett's Weekly R=
> egister=2C Volume 42=2C Number 1=2C April 6=2C 1822 (HathiTrust))=2C does n=
> ot refer to how young the bird was=2C but the other two seem to suggest tha=
> t "naked" was originally a reference to a young bird - not jaybirds (or rob=
> ins)=2C in general.  Also=2C a related turn of phrase=2C with a different b=
> ird=2C suggests the same thing:  "naked as a new hatched raven." Charles Wh=
> ite=2C The Cashmere Shawl=2C An Eastern Fiction=2C Volume 1=2C London=2C H.=
>  Colburn=2C 1840. (HathiTrust)
> Other examples here: http://esnpc.blogspot.com/2016/03/perching-birds-and-n=
> udity-naked-truth.html
>                                           =
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list