The English language, and other languages actually, is flowered with sayings. These are things that were said by old, frail men and women years ago but at the time they were spoken, someone was present with a tape recorder. “A cat may look at a king”, “Every dog has its day”, “A stitch in time saves nine” and all the rest that were drummed into our young, perceptive brains by Mrs. Katwesigye, all those sayings were spewed out several years ago before you, dear reader, were born. Their existence is evidence that tape recorders existed eons ago seeing as some sayings seem to have been uttered at a time when dinosaurs walked freely on the earth surface. Dinosaurs now live underground and come out at night to torment politicians; this explains the mental state of many of them but that’s not today’s story. So, some of these sayings are not entirely accurate. Let’s explore:

A bird in hand is worth two in the bush

This saying was probably coined at a time when birds were used to pay for goods. Instead of money, people walked around carrying birds. More colorful birds denoted bigger currency. It is during this era that peacocks became popular…before this they were considered unsightly creatures fit only to be food for hyenas. It is during this era that peacocks experienced their re-invention; their rebirth.

One day an old man went to the market to buy some sugar (for even in those days, old men liked getting some sugar). He carried only one bird with him. On reaching the stall (which was conveniently located five miles away from his home-miles because kilometers had not been invented yet), he handed over his bird and waited for his sugar. The shop keeper studied the man carefully before breaking the news to him. He’d once told a customer bad news and he passed out. Seeing that this particular old man looked strong, he went on and told him that unfortunately, his bird couldn’t afford him sugar. The old man then remembered that he’d left  two  fine birds back in the bush at his place. That’s when it hit him; “A bird in hand is worth two in the bush”. Of course this saying is no longer useful in our day and age. We now pay with money.

 Published on Sunday June 9, 2012

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