18 – A Little Bird Told Me

Fifty common expressions that originated from the Bible that influence our language today.

A Little Bird Told Me – While this idiom is not a direct quote from the Bible, according the “Encyclopedia of Word and Phrase Origins” by Robert Hendrickson it is based on a passage from the Book of Ecclesiastes. “Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter” (Ecclesiastes 10:20).

While it is often used humorously, it indicates that the speaker knows something, but does not wish to reveal his source of information.

It first appeared, in its current form, in the comedy, The Chapter of Accidents, in 1780, written by Sophia Lee. Earlier forms of the phrase appeared in John Heywood’s “Proverbs, Epigrams, and Miscellanies” (1546) and by Shakespeare in the “King Henry the Fourth” (1598). It is still a popular expression in literature, I have recently noted it in the writings of American author, Louis L’Amour and Australian author, Arthur W. Upfield

It was the title of a hit song written by Harvey Oliver Brooks. The song was sung by several artists becoming #1 on Billboard in 1948. A takeoff of the phrase, “What the Little Bird Told Him,” was the title of the 12th episode of the television series Gotham, which was watched by 6½ million people.

The moral of the passage in Ecclesiastes is to be careful what you think and say, because our private words easily become public words.

Posted in Influence

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