[Ads-l] antedating "birdbrain"

ADSGarson O'Toole adsgarsonotoole at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 27 12:18:26 UTC 2020

Nice work JL. The prominent critic Alexander Woollcott used bird-brain
as an insult in 1926.

Date: March 21, 1926
Newspaper: The Pittsburgh Sunday Post
Newspaper Location: Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania
Article: "Second Thoughts on First Nights"
Author: Alexander Woollcott
Section 6, Quote Page 2, Column 8
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
However, I suppose that in 1960, my grandchildren (on whom I have thus
far made an admittedly inadequate start) will shake with laughter over
a revival of "Abie's Irish Rose," saying one to another, "What a
bird-brain grandpa must have been!"
[End excerpt]

I suspect that the term had a long gestation. Back in 1877 "bird-like
brain" was used as an insult.

Date: December 10, 1877
Newspaper: The Huddersfield Daily Chronicle
Newspaper Location:
Article: Muncy's Mother-In-Law
Quote Page 4, Column 5
Database: Newspapers.com

[Begin excerpt]
The only accidental speck of originality that ever flashed from his
bird-like brain was a tirade against mothers-in-law; for he is the
originator of those tiresome, silly, so-called jokes on the
mother-in-law topic which have lately been floating through the
papers, worse than a visitation of locusts and grasshoppers.
[End excerpt]


On Mon, Oct 26, 2020 at 2:45 PM Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
> OED: 1943
> 1930 Cleveland Plain Dealer (May 11) Fiction Magazine 2: I’m such an utter
> bird-brain where art of any sort is concerned!
> JL
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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