Support
Subscribe
Subscribe to BirdNote

Sign up to receive a weekly email preview of the following week's shows!

Sign Up
Support BirdNote

Help BirdNote tell more stories, reach more people, and inspire action.

DONATE

You are here

A Little Bird Told Me

What the heck does that mean? And what little bird?

Sometimes, when we know something just too good to keep secret - but don't want to reveal the source - we say: "A little bird told me..." Where did this come from? The consensus is that the saying springs from Ecclesiastes: "Even in your thought, do not curse the king, nor in your bedchamber curse the rich; for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter." So beware of this Wandering Tattler! Help shape future shows. Tell us what you'd like to hear. Write to info@birdnote.org.

Full Transcript

Transcript: 
BirdNote®
A Little Bird Told Me

Written by Bob Sundstrom

This is BirdNote!
 [A bit of Yellow-breasted Chat song]
 Sometimes, when we know something just too good to keep secret – but don’t want to reveal the source – we say: “A little bird told me...”
 Ever wonder how this avian idiom came about? How did birds become known as messengers of vital secrets – or just good gossip? The consensus is that the saying springs from the Old Testament of the Bible. A maxim from Ecclesiastes reads: “Even in your thought, do not curse the king, nor in your bedchamber curse the rich; for a bird of the air will carry your voice, or some winged creature tell the matter.”
 By the mid-16th Century, the “little bird” showed up in collections of proverbs. In 1711, the satirist Jonathan Swift wrote in a letter: “I heard a little bird say so.”
 Well then, do birds carry off our secrets to pass along to others? You know, there actually is a sandpiper named the Wandering Tattler, which migrates up and down our coast. So, if you hear this call on the beach [Wandering Tattler calling], be sure to keep your thoughts to yourself. [Wandering Tattler calling]
Except when it comes to telling us what BirdNote means to you. Help shape future shows by telling us what you’d like to hear more of. Let us know at birdnote.org.
I’m Frank Corrado.
                                                                            ###
Bird sound of the Wandering Tattler provided by The Macaulay Library at the Cornell Lab of Ornithology, Ithaca, New York. Wandering Tattler recorded by W.W.H. Gunn/C.A. Sutherland. Song of the Yellow-breasted Chat provided by www.Naturesound.org recorded by Martyn Stewart.
Producer:  John Kessler
Executive Producer:  Chris Peterson
© 2010 Tune In to Nature.org                 July 2010

ID#072607littlebirdKPLU            language-06  

Quotation from: The Oxford Annotated Bible. Ecclesiastes 10:20. New York: Oxford University Press, 1962, p. 813. Other information from The Phrase Finder website.

Related topics:

Related field notes:

Home
Shows
Galleries
More