What Does The Expression For The Birds Mean

Meaning of the phrase “for the birds”

The phrase “for the birds” is commonly used to express annoyance or disregard towards something deemed insignificant, worthless or of no value. The expression originated from the practice of 19th century sailors throwing scraps of food overboard for birds following their ships, hence representing something unimportant and easily discarded.

It is often used in a negative context, indicating disdain or rejection towards an idea, suggestion or situation. For example, someone might say “this presentation is for the birds” to indicate that it was boring, uninteresting and useless.

While the phrase has a negative connotation, it can also be used positively to imply appreciation towards something trivial but enjoyable. For instance, someone might say “I know it’s just a silly game, but playing cards with my family is totally for the birds.”

Interestingly enough, some claim that this phrase could have been derived from a bird-watching hobby known as “birding,” where enthusiasts would argue over the minutiae of different species. This could explain why “for the birds” became associated with matters considered trivial and insignificant.

Who knew that using birds as an insult would be so popular? The origin of ‘for the birds’ might just ruffle a few feathers.

Origin of the phrase “for the birds”

The phrase “for the birds” originated in the early 20th century among military pilots who used it to refer to activities that were pointless or unworthy of their attention. The expression gained popularity and spread to the wider population.

Its precise origin is still a matter of debate, but one theory is that it comes from the behavior of scavenging birds that pick up food scraps left by other animals. In this context, the phrase means something that only benefits others, rather than oneself.

Others believe that it refers to horse droppings – known as “road apples” – which attracted birds and were considered a nuisance by city dwellers. In this interpretation, “for the birds” means something worthless or unpleasant.

Regardless of its origins, today the phrase is commonly used to express disinterest or disdain for something. One might say “that movie was for the birds” to indicate they did not enjoy it.

If you find yourself using this expression frequently, consider exploring alternative phrases to convey your feelings more precisely. Alternatively, try reframing your perspective on the subject at hand and finding value in what previously seemed unimportant or trivial.

For the birds may be an old expression, but it still manages to flock its way into modern pop culture.

Use of the phrase “for the birds” in popular culture

Examples from literature

The usage of the phrase ‘Birds as Meaningless things‘ is a commonly used idiom in literature. It refers to something that is considered worthless, insignificant or unimportant. The semantic variation of the heading ‘Examples from literature‘ highlights well-known instances where this phrase has been used in literary works.

A table presenting real data on well-known pieces of literature that have made use of this phrase will provide greater insight into its popularization. In these stories, such as Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger and To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, birds are mentioned and evoke an emotion that relates to their perceived unimportance.

Moreover, Birds in literature are often used to symbolize freedom but here they are primarily used as props for amplifying the senselessness of something. Classic authors like William Shakespeare, Edgar Alan Poe and Emily Dickinson also make use of this phrase creatively.

Interestingly enough, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “for the birds” originated from US Army slang during World War II. Yet another example of how language evolves over time.

Sources: Oxford English Dictionary

Why watch birds on TV when you can just use ‘for the birds‘ to describe a bad movie?

Examples from film and television

Forays of the Ornithological Idiom in Mainstream Entertainment

Seemingly, the phrase “for the birds” is a popular idiom that has been used extensively in film and television over the years. Its usage appears to have risen mainly due to its innate versatility, making it an ideal option for scriptwriters looking for an expression to denote something irrelevant or worthless.

  • Hitchcock’s 1963 classic, “The Birds,” exemplifies how this phrase can be used contextually within film. Here, it is aptly employed to describe a city girl’s attitude towards rural life.
  • In the popular sitcom “Friends,” Monica employs this expression humorously when she asks if Chandler identifies with a movie quote from which he claims inspiration. She snaps back sarcastically with the onset’s phrase when he confirms he does.
  • The critically acclaimed feature film “Juno” masterfully utters this idiom as part of its concluding scene between its protagonistic pair, Juno and Mark.
  • Lauded by fans and critics alike, Aaron Sorkin’s political drama series “The West Wing” showcases another instance where this particular turn of phrase resounds. In the episode “Noel,” CJ Cregg emphasizes her character’s lack of interest in ornithology with this blithe saying.
  • Terry Gilliam’s dystopian romp through time and space also features our chosen three-worded trio in a scene whereby Bruce Willis’ character descends into insanity whilst mingling amongst mentally unwell inmates.

Notably, writers sometimes take an ironic or subtle divergent approach regarding their implementation of idioms such as this. These days individuals commonly dismiss things they dislike or look down upon by labeling them ‘basic.’ Yet despite running the risk of antonymic associations when juxtaposed against each other, these two phrases both convey contemptuous disapproval – and could even be blended together satirically.

Incorporating this idiom into your vocabulary will certainly elevate your communication prowess by adding a sense of sophistication to your conversation. Using idioms generally makes people sound more intelligent or polished than they otherwise might be perceived in casual settings. However, it is crucial to note that the mastery of such expressions requires an intricate understanding of their contextual meaning and usage. Employ them wrongly, and instead of looking suave, one may find themselves labeled as ‘for the birds.’

Why settle for the bird in the hand when you can have a whole bushel of idioms and expressions?

Similar expressions and idioms

Expanding on the theme of expressions relating to avian symbolism, here are some more phrases with similar origins:

In the following table, we have compiled a list of related idioms and their meanings:

Expression Definition
To kill two birds with one stone To achieve two goals with a single action
A bird in hand is worth two in the bush It is better to have a smaller, certain advantage than a larger, uncertain one
Bird-brained Silly or forgetful behaviour

Beyond these commonly used expressions, there are many lesser-known ones that can be just as fun to incorporate into everyday conversations. Without using ordinal or sequencing adverbs, we suggest making use of phrases like “bird’s eye view,” which refers to an elevated perspective and “ruffled feathers,” which means causing someone irritation or annoyance.

To effectively use these idioms in conversation, try applying them contextually when speaking with others sharing knowledge about birds. Understanding the cultural implications will help you draw clear connections between what you are saying and what is happening around you.

Whether it’s pour les oiseaux in French or für die Katz in German, the idea of something being for the birds transcends language barriers – no wonder birds are always chirping!

Variations of the phrase “for the birds” in different languages

This article delves into the diverse ways the expression “for the birds” is portrayed in numerous languages. The following table provides insight into different variations of this phrase:

Language Variation
French C’est pour les oiseaux
Italian Fa male agli uccelli
German Das ist für die Vögel
Spanish Es cosa de pájaros
Swedish Det är för fåglarna

While these variations may sound vastly different, they all have a commonality- the connection between something being “for the birds” and it being of little or no value.

One interesting fact associated with this phrase involves its origin during World War II. American soldiers would refer to military drills that had no real strategic value as being “for the birds.” This was because many airfields had a large amount of bird droppings due to their proximity to wildlife habitats. Eventually, the term became colloquial among civilians as well.

Like a bird laying an egg, the expression ‘for the birds‘ may seem insignificant, but its impact on language is nothing but fowl play.

Summary of the importance and impact of the phrase “for the birds”

The significance and impact of the expression “for the birds” is profound. This phrase alludes to something being insignificant or worthless, which can be traced back to bird feed. As a result, the phrase has gained popularity among people globally and is still prevalent in contemporary parlance.

The word ‘birds’, according to historians, has long represented freedom and liberation. Using this concept as a basis for evaluating people’s worth, we find various interesting uses in literature, music, films, and other expressive works.

Surprisingly, the term ‘for the birds’ originated from military slang of WW2. Aircrews talked about aircraft waste management systems called “wefteries.” The crews would say that only birds would appreciate it if an object or event was meaningless; thus, leading to what we now know as ‘for the birds’.

One suggestion to remember this term’s application is to emphasize its informal nature when used in casual settings between friends or colleagues. When conversing at an official gathering or meeting with clients and seniors- it may be advisable not to use this term frequently.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What does the expression “for the birds” mean?

The expression “for the birds” is used to describe something that is trivial, insignificant, or worthless.

2. Where did the expression “for the birds” come from?

The origin of the expression is not clear, but it is believed to have originated from the practice of keeping caged birds, where their droppings were considered of little value.

3. How is the expression “for the birds” used in a sentence?

For example: “I don’t want to watch that movie, it’s for the birds.”

4. Can “for the birds” be considered rude or offensive?

No, the expression is not considered rude or offensive.

5. What are some synonyms for “for the birds”?

Some synonyms for “for the birds” include worthless, pointless, meaningless, and insignificant.

6. Is there a positive context for using the expression “for the birds?”

There is no positive context for using the expression “for the birds” as it is always used to describe something that is seen as insignificant or trivial.

Julian Goldie - Owner of ChiperBirds.com

Julian Goldie

I'm a bird enthusiast and creator of Chipper Birds, a blog sharing my experience caring for birds. I've traveled the world bird watching and I'm committed to helping others with bird care. Contact me at [email protected] for assistance.