A little bird told me …

It is an idiomatic expression that means “someone told me, but I’m not telling you who it is”. This phrase is often used more comically than seriously, especially when the source of the information is obvious to both parties but neither is willing to say.

Various authors over the centuries, including Shakespeare, have made reference to birds, feathered or otherwise, giving messages. I have found an earlier version of this phrase: “A little bird has whispered a secret to me,” from 1833 on www.phrases.org.uk

Idioms are fixed combinations of words whose meaning is difficult to guess from the meaning of each individual word. For instance, If two people are birds of a feather, they are very similar in many ways, so they naturally spend time together and join together. That is not the same as the separate meanings of their individual words.

“Do not complain about your friends. Remember, birds of a feather flock together. Your friends are just like you.”  These are examples of idioms, they cannot be taken literally.

Sometimes we use the features and cliches based on birds as a short way of expressing a more complicated idea. For example if “the student learned about the birds and the bees in his health education class at school” is a way of saying that he or she has learned the facts about sex and birth and life, the facts of life.

Also idioms help to make English a more colourful language: “An early bird” is someone who arrives someplace early or starts something early

“I am an early bird and I like to arrive early at work every morning.” If you wake up and get to work early, you will succeed, in this case we can say the proverb: “The early bird catches the worm”

Similes are expressions which compare two things, they always include the words as or like. You can use similes to make a description more emphatic or vivid, e.g. “as free as a bird” completely free, carefree. “Eat like a bird” to eat very little. The opposite would be “Eat like a horse”, and if he eats very unpleasantly and greedily with no table manners he “eats like a pig”.

Idioms are used to catch the reader’s eye, particularly those with strong images, e.g.: “a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”. This expression means that it is better to have an advantage or opportunity that is certain than having one that is worth more but is not so certain. The ‘bird’ we already possess is far more valuable than the ‘two’ we could possibly get. In essence, don’t be greedy and a “bird brain”, stick with what good things you already have, instead of going after something you’ll probably never get.

The Teacher, a very interesting and intelligent person, not a “birdbrain”, introduces us to three idioms connected with birds:

  • Birdbrain.
  • To have a bird’s eye view. (a general view from above)
  • A little bird told me.

The phrase “to kill two birds with one stoneIdiom 68 Kill two birds with one stone 2I do use it by habit, but I catch myself every time I say it. The expression is rarely used literally, no one really goes around throwing stones at birds these days. Again, because these examples are idioms, they cannot be taken literally. The Oxford English Dictionary describes the usage as a proverbial phrase meaning “to accomplish two different purposes by the same act or proceeding.” Or in other words: “to use only one action to complete two tasks”.

And this is what I hope I have done with this post, learn about idioms and expressions and about bird features.

Another video about birds idioms by  JamesESL English Lessons (engVid)

To learn more about Bird Idioms:

About idioms in general:

 

 

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Lost In Translation: Every language has its ready-made expressions

When an idiom, saying, proverb or ready-made expression is translated into another language and, because of differences of the languages, some of the original meaning is lost. Due to the original meaning can not be perfectly translated into the other language. So you have to rephrase or say what you mean in a totally different way.

The common and very familiar Spanish expression “contigo pan y cebolla” is used in Spain in a humoristic way to let your partner know “how deep is your love” but means literally “with you bread and onions“. The fact that a couple may not have a lot of money is not an obstacle for them to get married and live a happy life as long as they love each other. The idea of “contigo pan y cebolla” may be expressed in English with expressions like: with you through thick and thin, against all odds; If I am with you I do not need anything else; I’ll forbear any burden in life being with you. Although not any of those has the accurate meaning of the Spanish expression.

By and large we express what we mean with the help of proverbs, sayings or ready-made phrases, We often have the tendency to translate them word-for-word in the middle of the conversation with a foreign friend and without us being actually aware of it. That, instead of clarify the meaning, has an opposite effect. People who do that “no tiene dos dedos de frente” (literally: Not having two fingers of forehead, but it is used as: He/She is not smart) because you can make a big mistake or make a tactless remark: “meter la pata” (you can make a bit of a blunder).

Normally these remarks are innocent and never intentional, but can nevertheless lead to embarrassing and tense situations, and sometimes may even have some unpleasant consequences. More often than not, however, these type of mistakes and inappropriate comments have no major consequences and with time become funny anecdotes. Conversely, your interlocutor may think that you “estas como una cabra”. This is another commonly used Spanish idiom for when somebody is doing something bizarre or a little out of the ordinary. The literal translation is “to be like a goat” and the English equivalent is saying someone is a little nuts or crazy. So if you translate to a foreign friend Spanish expressions literally, you might say: “tu estás como una cabra.(you are a little crazy.) Or They might think you are “corto de luces” literally, “short of lights,” in English “not the brightest bulb on the tree.In this site you can find 100 ways to say “not the brightest bulb on the tree.

Those phrases, idioms or ready-made expressions, which, taken out of their original context, or to the ears of a foreigner, sound so very bizarre. When you think carefully about the words that make up these idioms, you realize there is a major leap from the literal meaning to the figurative meaning, and that’s where it gets funny.

On the other hand, people use them on a daily basis, but often don’t know about their origins. They may not stop to reflect on some of the expressions that come out of their mouth, but to other people, some of these idioms can be truly shocking. For instance “Estar en Babia” (to be in Babia) means “to be distracted or inattentive”, but where this expression comes from back in the Middle Ages, when León was a kingdom, the royal family lived in their palace in the city of León, but they used to come to Babia to hunt and fish. And when people requested an audience with the king, the chamberlain used to say he was in Babia, he was away of the bustle and noise of the city, he was absent, missing ….In Spain “to be in Babia” means having your mind in one place and your body in another.

babia

But to learn a language is better no tener pelos en la lenguanot to have hairs on your tongue”, meaning that someone is a straight shooter and will always speak their mind. And don’t Tomar el pelo (to take the hair) to your teacher, used when someone is tricking or making fun of someone else, but in a good-natured way: to pull your teacher’s leg.

Resources for Learning Spanish Idioms

15 Common Spanish Idioms

To be healthier than a pear: Funny Spanish idioms: Nice collection of funny Spanish idioms here, with many new ones.

Catalog of Spanish Expression Proverbs

Why do the Spanish “shit in the sea”?

Spanish Phrases That Literally Make No Sense

9 ridiculously useful Spanish expressions: Great post that also includes embedded sound files.

Practical Precepts: Proverbs

Every culture has a collection of wise sayings that offer advice about how to live your life. These sayings are called “proverbs” (practical precepts). Very often these pieces of advice, precepts or principles of one culture are precepts or principles of another, for they are an outgrowth of common experiences.

Each language has its own proverbs. Although the phrasing is unique and contributes to the color of the language, many proverbs convey similar meanings in different forms. For example, the Spanish proverb “Más vale pájaro en mano que ciento volando” (“A bird in the hand is worth more than a hundred flying”) finds an equivalent in the English proverb: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush”, in the Dutch proverb: “better one bird in the hand than ten in the air” and in the German proverb: “Lieber den Spatz in der Hand als die Taube auf dem Dach” (Better the sparrow in the hand than the pigeon on the roof).

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“A rolling stone gathers no moss”

Interpreting proverbs is often complex, moreover, interpreting proverbs from other cultures is much more difficult than interpreting proverbs in ones own culture.
Even within English-speaking cultures, there is difference of opinion on how to interpret the proverb “A rolling stone gathers no moss”. Some see it as condemning a person that keeps moving, seeing moss as a positive thing, such as profit; others see it the proverb as praising people that keep moving and developing, seeing moss as a negative thing, such as negative habits. Bob Dylan’s 1965 song “Like a Rolling Stone” may refer to the original proverb.

Not all who wander are lost

Not all those who wander are lost

Some authors have created proverbs in their writings, such a J.R.R. Tolkien, and some of these proverbs have made their way into broader society, such as the bumper sticker pictured here:

 

“Not all those who wander are lost”, a line from the poem “All That is Gold Does Not Glitter” (some things are not as valuable as they appear to be) written by J. R. R. Tolkien for his fantasy novel The Lord of the Rings. The poem reads:

All that is gold does not glitter

“All That is Gold Does Not Glitter”

Proverbs are used by speakers for a variety of purposes. Sometimes they are used as a way of saying something gently, in a veiled way:
“Two’s Company, but Three’s a Crowd” (couples often enjoy their privacy and dislike having a third person around). This is a proverb, a saying which expresses a general truth. It is not at all impolite, rude, or obscene when used to express a general truth. However, you make it impolite when you use it as a sort of weapon in conversation, a way of suggesting that someone else is in the way and ought to leave.

two is a company but three is a crowd

“Two’s Company, but Three’s a Crowd”

Other times, they are used to carry more weight in a discussion, to support his position, or even to argue:“Actions Speak Louder Than Words” (people’s actions are more convincing than their words are)

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Proverbs can also be used to simply make a conversation or discussion more lively. In many parts of the world, the use of proverbs is a mark of being a good orator:

 

There are often proverbs that contradict each other, such as “Look before you leap” (consider all aspects of a situation before you take any action) and “He who hesitates is lost.” (a person who doesn’t act decisively is unlikely to succeed) These have been labelled “counter proverbs”. “Counter proverbs” are not the same as a “paradoxical proverb”, a proverb that contains a seeming paradox: “The pen is mightier than sword” (the written word is more powerful than physical force) but “Actions speak louder than words”

 

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The Book of Proverbs is a collection of moral and religious teachings in the form of sayings and proverbs. From The Book of Proverbs of the Hebrew Bible we can conclude with this one:

“A fool can use a proverb about as well as a crippled man can use his legs” (Proverbs 26:7)

 

Sayings, Idioms, Quotes and Proverbs

A saying is a short, clever expression that usually contains advice or expresses some obvious truth. An idiom is a group of words in current usage having a meaning that is not deducible from those of the individual words. A quote (or “quotation”) is usually a short text written or spoken by one (usually famous) person and often repeated or at least known by others. And a proverb is a phrase expressing a basic truth which may be applied to common situations.

Many idioms originated as quotations from well-known writers such as Shakespeare. For example, “at one fell swoop” comes from Macbeth and “cold comfort” from King John. Sometimes such idioms today have a meaning that has been altered from the original quotation.

It’s high time we start with the examples because we haven’t got a “whale of time” and “Time is gold ….”

 Time is gold, don't waste it, don't take it for granted, always make the best of it... 'cause you never know when you might run out of it.

An apple a day keeps the doctor away

It’s one of the most recognizable expressions around: “An apple a day keeps the doctor away.” But besides the fact that it rhymes, which makes it fun to say and easy to recall, does it really have any value? Could the common apple honestly help a person to maintain perfect health? It’s unlikely that the saying would have maintained such popularity if there wasn’t some truth to it.

When the opportunity knocks I answer the door naked. 

You will only have one chance to do something important or profitable. Some say opportunity knocks only once, others say that opportunity knocks all the time, but you have to be ready for it. If the chance comes, you must have the equipment to take advantage of it. But there is another formulation of the proverb: If opportunity doesn’t knock, build a door.

“The world’s my oyster” William Shakespeare quote

If you boast that “The world’s my oyster” nowadays, you’re claiming that the world’s riches are yours to leisurely pluck from the shell. “The world’s my oyster” has become merely a conceited proclamation of opportunity and means that one rules the world, one is in charge of everything. 

“Better to walk without knowing where than to sit doing nothing” Tuareg Proverb

On the one hand, when we sit for long periods, circulation is constricted, metabolism slows, muscles shut off and connective tissue tightens…..uffff¡¡¡ Bad news for your health. On the other hand, and on  another quotation: “Keep moving forward, opening new doors, and doing new things, because we’re curious and curiosity keeps leading us down new paths“. Walt Disney

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. - Confucius

Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it. Confucius.

Everything has an intrinsic value. But the valuation is subjective, not objective. In others words or in other saying: Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Different people have different ideas about what is beautiful.

You scratch my back and I’ll scratch yours; quid pro quo

This for that; giving something to receive something else; something equivalent; something in return.

No pain, no gain

One must be willing to endure some inconvenience or discomfort in order to achieve worthwhile goalsRelated terms:

If one takes no risks, one will not gain any benefits.

To be on cloud number nine

A state of happiness, elation or bliss; to be on seventh heaven (the outermost of the heavenly spheres; a dwelling of the angels)

Every cloud has a silver lining

Means that you should never feel hopeless because difficult times always lead to better days. Difficult times are like dark clouds that pass overhead and block the sun.

Why? When we look more closely at the edges of every cloud we can see the sun shining there like a silver lining.

People sometimes say that every cloud has a silver lining to comfort somebody who’s having problems. They mean that it is always possible to get something positive out of a situation, no matter how unpleasant, difficult or even painful it might seem.