Sheila (bluewolf458) wrote in fandom_grammar,

Say what: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush/Birds of a feather flock together

Say what: A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush/Birds of a feather flock together

Our two sayings today both involve birds. With a little help from our friends in The Sentinel -

A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.

This proverb dates back to mediaeval times when the 'bird in the hand' was a falcon, a valuable asset for a hunter... and of course one tamed falcon was worth far more than two wild ones.

Latin texts of the Bible have a variant from the 13th century:

Ecclesiastes IX - A living dog is better than a dead lion.

There are several avian versions -

It is more sekyr [certain] a byrd in your fest, Than to haue three in the sky a-boue.
[c 1450 J. Capgrave, Life of St. Katharine]

Betyr ys a byrd in the hond than tweye in the wode.
[c 1470 Harley]

Hugh Rhodes' The Boke of Nurture or Schoole of Good Maners quotes "A byrd in hand - is worth ten flye at large.")(circa 1530)

"I'd like to get a car," Blair said as he looked at the ads in the paper.
"You already have a bike," Naomi reminded him. "It gets you around perfectly well. Don't be greedy - remember a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush."

"I thought you wanted to look around before you bought anything," Jim said. "Instead, you bought the first thing you saw that interested you."

Blair laughed. "If I'd done that, someone else might have bought this before I got back to it. As it is, it's mine, and you know what they say. A bird in the hand, man - definitely worth two in the bush."
Other languages have their own forms of the proverb, eg Czech has 'Lepsi vrabec v hrsti nez holub na strese' (A sparrow in the fist is better than a pigeon on the roof) although it seems odd that it's comparing two different birds.

The proverb (in its different forms) actually seems to be an admonition against greed; be grateful for what you have, rather than reach out for more.

Birds of a feather flock together

This has been in use since at least the 16th century;

"Byrdes of on kynde and color flok and flye allwayes together." (1545, William Turner)

Some versions ignore 'flocking', and simply refer to birds flying together -

"As commonly birds of a feather will flye together." (Livy's 'Romane historie', translated Philemon Holland, 1600)

Something similar might have been known in Greece around 380BC - Benjamin Jowett's 1856 translation of Plato's Republic says,

"Men of my age flock together; we are birds of a feather, as the old proverb says." (And if Plato considered the saying, in this form, 'old', it has to be much older than 380BC. However, Jowett's translation could have been a considerable simplification of Plato's original phraseology, bringing it 'up to date' for his era.)

"If it's true that birds of a feather flock together, all my friends would be academics," Blair said. "But my best friends are all cops."

"So?" Jim replied. "That's not a problem. It just makes you a duck in a flock of geese. You fit in fine."
Although the proverb doesn't say that you can't get the occasional apparent misfit in a group, it does say that, in general, people with similar interests are drawn to each other's company.

Sources here and here here

Tags: !say what, author:bluewolf458

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