I’ve always been intrigued by plays on words and colloquialisms and have included some bird-related word plays in Oscar’s story. The intriguing part is knowing something about the source and meanings of the phrases. Therefore, I did some delving into the meanings of such passages in Oscar’s story.
Page 5 “Dad was a tough old bird”
A common meaning for “tough old bird” is a chicken past its youth too tough to bake or grill. By extension, a mean old person who gives people a hard time or who has succeeded in surviving innumerable hardships, is called a tough old bird. I see someday that Oscar, if he has a long life, will be a bird who has and will overcome many obstacles during his life due to his toughness and may be referred by the young ospreys as a “tough old bird” but in a sort of complimentary way.
Page 8 “You’ll love the bird’s-eye view from out here”
A common usage for “bird’s eye view” is in referring to a view from a high angle as if seen by a bird in flight. It is an old phrase with a first known usage way back in 1771. I’m not sure whether Oscar will ever lose his fear of heights, it’s a basic fear, not easily overcome. Oscar compensates in order to deal with the phobia, and will probably always have troubles appreciating views from high places.
Page 8 “Oscar, you get your little tail out here this instant or I’ll wring your neck!”
One meaning for “wring your neck” involves the practice of wringing chicken’s necks prior to preparing chicken dinners. A little gruesome maybe, but Oscar’s Dad wasn’t really going to wring Oscar’s neck. He was showing impatience with Oscar’s for being, as he thought, so timid. It demonstrates how we should be considerate of individuals with handicaps and what they are dealing with.
Page 27 “…So you want to be a bird of a different feather?”
A common meaning for “bird of a different feather” is a person who is free thinking and independent. Oscar was certainly a bird with an ability to expand his consciousness beyond the usual options in learning how to deal with adversity. I have read that those who are the most adaptable will very likely to have a longer than average lifespan. Being rigid and inflexible can lead to stress and an unhealthy emotional state. Go with the flow, that’s the message in Oscar’s story.
I used these phrases to add flavor to the language of the characters. But I hope it comes across that there is depth to these sayings and possess meanings beyond being just mere descriptive words. So go investigate the reasons for and meanings of those colloquialisms that interest you!