“It’s For The Birds”

While “just looking” in a gift shop, do you oftentimes see things that you think a friend or family member would enjoy? I’ll think, “that’s perfect for them,” but usually it’s too

Today' s store make for fun shopping.

Today’ s gift shops make for fun shopping.

expensive to buy unless there’s a good reason, like a wedding or birthday. Well, I was cruising through a shop recently, and came to an attractively arranged grouping on backyard birds and among the beautiful items was a small plaque that read, “This House Is For The Birds.” It was nearly time for someone special in my life to celebrate a birthday, so I bought it for her. ( It wasn’t expensive.)

I knew what was written on the front of the plaque was a “play on” an old saying I had grown- up with, but I didn’t give any further thought to this until after I had given the gift away. It was It's for the birds rather late, but I decided to do some research on the meaning of the idiom, “It’s For The Birds,” and I found that it had negative connotations. Actually I knew that, before I bought this plaque, but I thought the meaning had been turned around to be something positive.

Here are some examples of how the saying has been used. While watching a television program that is not to your liking, you may say, “That television program is “for the birds.” If you have a pair of shoes that hurt your feet, you might say, “This lousy pair of shoes is strictly for the birds.” Here’s an appropriate one, “Winter weather is “for the birds.” (The birds may not agree.)

In Ireland, it’s a polite way of saying someone is a little crazy. “That bloke is for the birds.” If something that’s being said is considered “for the birds,” that means it is useless or

Can't go wrong with this one.

Can’t go wrong with this one.

pointless, of no importance, and that what’s being said no one cares because it means nothing. This certainly sounds like an insult to our feathered friends and now I’m wondering if when the person I gave the gift to hangs it in her house, visitors may think it’s expressing her dissatisfaction with her home? Life gets complicated, doesn’t it? What would you read into the saying? To me it means that bird lovers reside there.

One definition of the saying got rather vulgar when it is explained that it refers to the time when the streets of New York City were covered with horse droppings and the birds ate It's for the birds 14the undigested oats from them. Maybe the saying goes back even further than the horse drawn carriage days, all the way to Bible times because in Isaiah 18:6 we read about pruning away unproductive shoots from plants and trees and that they would be left “for the birds.” This analogy is a prophecy against Cush and a description of that nation’s defeat.

Has gift giving become complicated these days? Do many writings have a second It's for the birds 13 meaning? I think they do. I have had to watch what I post on face book because what seems to have a perfectly harmless meaning, does not. I wonder if I may have been better off with a gift that said, “Birds of a Feather Flock Together,” or “A Little Birdie Told Me.” Maybe this one would have been a better choice: “A Bird In The Hand is Worth More Than A Bird In The Bush.” There’s nothing negative about that saying. I surely would have been safe with one that simply reads, “Love Birds.”

I haven’t told you to whom I gave this gift and she has no idea that I’m having second It's for the birds 5thoughts about giving it to her. Some of you may have already guessed who this person is. I hope you’ll write and let me know. The thought just occurred to me that maybe this person should hang her new plaque on the bird house in her back yard. There, “This House Is For The Birds” plaque  would not be misconstrued.

I’m waiting to hear from you. Do you struggle over gift giving or phrases that have a second meaning? To make a comment on Shirl and You, click on the headline of this writing, then scroll down to the bottom where there is a box where you may type your comment.

10 thoughts on ““It’s For The Birds”

  1. Shirley,
    I think that if you found a gift and immediately knew who you wanted to give it to, then it is probably the perfect gift for that person. I know that if anyone got me this gift, I certainly wouldn’t view it in a negative way. I am a bird lover, and if your friend is a bird lover, then she will love your gift!! I think that she will appreciate how you have thought of her and how you’ve considered her passion for birds in the selection of this gift.


  2. I do struggle with gift giving! I was told once by someone very wise that I “overthink things”. And you were right!! Sometimes I am downright immobilized in my gift giving. But I happen to know that the one you gave that plaque to loves it and it looks beautiful in her little home. And it makes her think lovingly of the gift giver!! 🙂


    • Hmmmm, “overthink things,” that’s a new consideration for me. But maybe that’s exactly what I do. Strange that we might both do the same thing.:) Glad you liked your gift. Thanks for writing, Janine.


  3. I’m a yard sale girl. I often find gifts that remind me of someone. I store them in a bin in the basement. No need to place a name on them…because I know who it is for. Yard sale prices are inexpensive and most of what I find still have store tags on them. I love your pic of the birds gathering. It’s represents a happy place for the birds. Your friend knows you and your heart…she will see what you saw and will take no offense…only appreciation for the gift you have given.


    • Yard Sales, I must confess I don’t take time to check them out. I wonder, too, if you might be located where there are sometimes yard-sale-streets or whole neighborhoods conducting them. I’d be more inclined to visit them. You are so well organized, Karen,even in your gift giving. It would be fun to dig in your downstairs bin. Thanks for writing. I watch for your comments with every post.


  4. Giving to someone else, especially when they aren’t expecting it (*ahem, Janine) is almost more fun for me than the whole planned out process. I’d much rather find something, have that moment of *yes* and keep going. 🙂


    • I get the feeling that readers of shirlandyou think it best to buy a gift, give it and don’t try to analyze it. I’m becoming of the same opinion. It was fun hearing from you, Melissa. You must be one of Janine’s friends and you can get to see the plaque I refer to in shirlandyou. Thanks for writing, hope to hear from you again.


  5. Well, Shirley, my daughter & son-in-law’s last name is “Bird.” That sheds a new light on gift buying. I often buy things that say “For the birds…” They are given & accepted in love….no offense taken. Your friends know your heart, they will not take offense to your thoughtful gift. Another funny phrase you referred to was” Indian giving.” On our first date I used the phrase in conversation with my “future” husband…not knowing he was a full blooded Onondaga (one of 6 tribes of iroquois nation!) I guess he didn’t take offense because we were married for 23 years and laughed about it many times.


    • Thanks for writing, Kathleen. What fun it would be buying gifts for a family named Bird. I hope they like our feathered friends. I always enjoy hearing about your late husband and his heritage. I happen to know that he was a talented artist and did terrific paintings of Indians. I love hearing of your adventures since your retirement. I notice that many of them center around family which is one of life’s sweetest adventures. Loved hearing from you.


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