There are many a phrase incorporating the word “crow”. I am a language nerd, and true to form, I am always curious about the etymology of phrases or words. Crow terms are no exception. So I set out to learn a bit more about a few of the more common crow related phrases.
When you hear someone refer to “Crow’s Feet” they are referring to the deep lines in the skin around the eyes which comes naturally with aging. This term dates back to late in the 14th century but I couldn’t find an actual origin. Pity!
To ‘eat crow‘ means to take back what you said, to eat your own words or your pride, to admit you were wrong. The Online Etymology Dictionary ((http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=c&p=65)) postulates that this phrase is ‘based on the notion that the bird is edible when boiled but hardly agreeable’. This phrase was first used in American English in 1851 but is ‘said to date to War of 1812 (Walter Etecroue turns up 1361 in the Calendar of Letter Books of the City of London).
‘As the crow flies‘ is a term indicating direction traveling the most direct route or in a straight line. This phrase dates back to 1800. ((http://www.etymonline.com/index.php?l=c&p=65)) ((Barnhart, Robert K. The Barnhart Concise Dictionary of Etymology. New York: HarperCollins, 1995. Print.))
Another crow related term not as commonly used is to ‘have a crow to pick ‘ with someone. It means you have an issue with something they did and want to discuss it. One is upset with another person and wants to let them know. This term dates back to 1659, where it is found in Howell’s Proverbs. ((Dictionary of phrase and fable: giving the derivation source, or origin of common phrases, allusions, and words that have a tale to tell by Ebenezer Cobham Brewer))
Each phrase I’ve crowed about above is interesting in its etymology and worth researching yourself. Go ahead, you’ll see! And if you find another term you would like to know more about or if you happen to know the etymology of another corvid-related phrase or word and you want to share, contact me below.
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