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A Bird in the Hand

An old saying still rings true
© Kelly Colgan Azar View Large

You’ve probably heard the old saying: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Well, it’s a very old saying, and it’s gone through some changes over the years. In each era, the pragmatic wisdom is clear: Hold on to the sure thing rather than taking a gamble on something better. The saying even lent its name to a town in Pennsylvania!

Support for BirdNote comes from American Bird Conservancy and Bringing Back the Birds, a photo book by Owen Deutsch on the importance of protecting birdscapes. Available at Amazon.com.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 

BirdNote®

A Bird in the Hand

Written by Bob Sundstrom
 
This is BirdNote.

[ambient of Eastern bird songs in the background throughout]

You’ve probably heard the old saying: “A bird in the hand is worth two in the bush.” Well, it’s a very old saying, and it’s gone through some changes over the years.

The phrase first pops up in a seventh-century Aramaic proverb, "Better is a sparrow held tight in the hand than a thousand birds flying about in the air."

An English book from the 15th century had this version:
It is more certain a bird in your fist than to have three in the sky above.

One hundred years later, there was another old English saying: “Better one byrde in hande than ten in the wood.”

In each era, the pragmatic wisdom is clear: Hold on to the sure thing rather than taking a gamble on something better.

The old saying eventually made it to Pennsylvania, where there’s a town named “Bird-in-Hand.” Legend has it that when two road surveyors in the early 1700s were trying to decide whether to stay the night where they were working or head back to Lancaster, one cited the bird-in-hand proverb. They decided to stay, and the place was named “Bird-in-Hand.”

For BirdNote, I’m Michael Stein.
Support for BirdNote comes from American Bird Conservancy and Bringing Back the Birds, a photo book by Owen Deutsch on the importance of protecting birdscapes. Available at amazon dot com.
                                                             ###
Producer: John Kessler
Executive Producer: Sallie Bodie
Editor: Ashley Ahearn
Associate Producer: Ellen Blackstone
Assistant Producer: Mark Bramhill
Bird sounds provided by The Macaulay Library of Natural Sounds at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. 110222  recorded by ML  W Hershberger WV May
BirdNote’s theme was composed and played by Nancy Rumbel and John Kessler.
© 2019 BirdNote   December 2019

ID#  language-09-2019-12-16       language-09     Narrator: Michael Stein

[some background] https://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/a-bird-in-the-hand.html
https://grammarist.com/proverb/a-bird-in-the-hand-is-worth-two-in-the-bush/

["It is more sekyr [certain] a byrd in your fest, Than to haue three in the sky a‐boue."
Might be spoken as “It is more sekyr—meaning secure or certain—a bird in your fest than to have three in the sky above.” Or “It is more secure . . . sky above.]

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