[Ads-l] antedating "birdbrain"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Tue Oct 27 16:11:52 EDT 2020


1900 _The Comet_  [Johnson City, Tenn.] (Apr. 26) 1: These bird-brained
persons...like to make slaves of themselves and would deny all freedom of
opinion.

On Tue, Oct 27, 2020 at 3:45 PM Baker, John <JBAKER at stradley.com> wrote:

> Here are some earlier examples from NewspaperArchive.  Birds on the whole
> are not thought to be of high intelligence, notwithstanding the
> well-merited reputations of ravens and crows and the less-merited
> reputation of owls, and “bird brain” seems to have been available as an
> insult for quite some time.
>
> Goshen (Ind.) Democrat, Apr. 6, 1864:  “Where’s Copeland, who is receiving
> $3 to $5 per day from the public Treasury, employing meanwhile, his little
> chipping bird brain in calling old Democrats traitors, who voted for
> Jackson before he doffed his swaddling clothes?”
>
> Eugene City Guard, Nov. 4, 1882:  “She had but just left the convent, with
> a little sentimentality in her frail bird-brain, with that awakening of a
> heart which beats without rhyme or reason – with that longing for the
> unknown which is indefinable, which tortures and makes circles about the
> great curious eyes of young girls.”
>
> Danville (Ind.) Hendricks County Republican, Oct. 21, 1886:  “The article
> in the News was doubtless the work of the drunken imbecile, Eugene Field,
> whose column of “Sharps and Flats” in that paper attracted some attention
> two or three years ago – before the unfortunate creature had steeped his
> canary-bird-brain to the point of idiocy in Bucktown whiskey.”
>
> As for Eugene Field, best remembered today as a writer of poetry for
> children, he was no imbecile, but apparently he did have a fondness for
> alcohol.
>
> John Baker
>
> From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> On Behalf Of
> ADSGarson O'Toole
> Sent: Tuesday, October 27, 2020 12:33 PM
> To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
> Subject: Re: antedating "birdbrain"
>
> Excellent work, Bill. The popular author Kathleen Norris used "bird
> brain" in a short story for "Cosmopolitan" published in 1923.
>
> Date: May 1923
> Periodical: Cosmopolitan
> Story: The Guests of Honor
> Author: Kathleen Norris
> Start Page 31, Quote Page 34, Column 1
> Database: Google Books
>
>
> https://books.google.com/books?id=gAXnAAAAMAAJ&q=%22bird+brain%22#v=snippet&
> <
> https://books.google.com/books?id=gAXnAAAAMAAJ&q=%22bird+brain%22#v=snippet&
> >
>
> [Begin excerpt]
> But she remembered with a faint inward chill that there had been a
> rather insipid young man, who looked and danced like a professional
> dancer, in close attendance upon the beautiful Mrs. Cruikshank at the
> club last week, and that Mr. Cruikshank, being warmed with his meal,
> had expressed himself with more honesty than tact about him.
>
> "She's giving that bird-brain a run!" had been his way of putting it,
> and Juliana remembered now that there was a hint of real resentment in
> his words.
> [End excerpt]
>
> Garson
>
> On Tue, Oct 27, 2020 at 10:54 AM Bill Mullins <amcombill at hotmail.com
> <mailto:amcombill at hotmail.com>> wrote:
> >
> > 1925 _New York Times_ Oct 11 X2/1
> >
> > "What is the character portrayed by Miss Crews? A middle-aged actress
> retired to private life, after years upon the stage. A bird brain, utterly
> without mental processes, functioning entirely through the medium of the
> tawdry melodramas that have been her life."
> >
> > ------------------------------------------------------------
> > The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org<
> http://www.americandialect.org>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org<
> http://www.americandialect.org>
>
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>


-- 
"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


More information about the Ads-l mailing list