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Today's Word



Oct 11, 2021
This week’s theme
Bird words

This week’s words
raven messenger
war hawk

A dovecote in Egypt
Photo: Rachid H

Previous week’s theme
Words related to writing
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with Anu Garg

I recently learned about something called competitive birding, in a most fascinating article in the latest issue of the Scientific American magazine. As one of the participants in the contest says, “This isn’t birding. This is war.”

So if you like war, or if you like to shoot birds, try competitive birding instead. Leave your gun at home and pick up a pair of binoculars. Birds didn’t do anything to hurt you -- why would you hurt them? Shoot with a camera instead.

Speaking of not hurting, if you have birds in a cage, please let them go. They belong in the open skies, not in a tiny prison. Thank you. (Think about how you’d feel if you were simply going about your day, on your way to get groceries for your family, and someone captured you and put you behind bars for the rest of your life. Same with the fish.)

A word in the mind is worth two in the book. This week we’ll share with you birds that have become metaphors in the English language. Call them bird words.

Are you into birding? Share your stories with us. Email us at words@wordsmith.org. Even if you are not a birder, write us anyway and tell us about your bird encounters.

dovecote or dovecot

(DUHV-koht or DUHV-kot)

1. A structure with holes for housing domestic pigeons.
2. A settled group, especially one of a quiet, conservative nature.

From dove, from Old English dufe + cote (shelter, coop), from Old English cote. Earliest documented use: 1425. A synonym is columbarium.

The word is sometimes used in the idiom “a flutter in the dovecote” meaning “a disturbance in a settled, conservative group”. In Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, the title character, Roman general Caius Marcius (later given the name Coriolanus), has a thing for bird metaphors. He calls allowing plebeians (commoners) to have any power over the patricians (ruling class) as allowing “the crows to peck the eagles”.
When asked where he lived, he replies, “In the city of kites and crows”. Later, he brags “like an eagle in a dove-cote, I flutter’d your Volscians in Corioli” meaning that he destroyed Volscians in Corioli. Corioli was a town in the ancient territory of Volsci in Italy. It was in recognition of his military feat in Corioli that he was given the nickname Coriolanus.

“The studio became a dovecote for the right wing. ‘These are believers talking to believers. It was like listening to a convention of preachers discussing the merits of tithing.’”
James Kilpatrick; Create Similes with Care of Frugal Stonemason; The Augusta Chronicle (Georgia); Jul 8, 2000.

See more usage examples of dovecote in Vocabulary.com’s dictionary.

A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity. -Eleanor Roosevelt, diplomat and writer (11 Oct 1884-1962)

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