a blank slate

a blank slate

Tag: birds

Friday Phrases #3

A few weeks ago, I decided to post tidbits from my Brewer’s Dictionary of Phrase and Fable every Friday, in an attempt to keep the blog up and running even during utter shortage of time. I have skipped one Friday already, but I forgive myself for it for it was a week when I was completely sick. 

So, I was surprised to discover that the dictionary actually has a foreword by Pratchett, and he says, “Brewer’s is ostensibly a reference book, and an indispensable one. But it is also an idiosyncratic adventure, pulling you in and saying: ‘This is, in fact, not what you’re looking for; but it’s much more interesting.’ And, of course, it usually is.” Very true.

This week’s phrase is –

of course, definitely looks like a sheep, its uncanny..


ALBATROSS.
(Portugese Alcatraz, ‘pelican’, from Arabic al-ghattas, ‘the white-tailed sea-eagle’, influenced by Latin albus, ‘white’). A large oceanic bird, noted for its powerful gliding flight. It was called the Cape Sheep by sailors from its frequenting the Cape of Good Hope, and it was said to sleep in the air. Sailors have long believed that to shoot one brings bad luck.

In modern usage, the word denotes a constant burden or handicap. This sense is first recorded in the 1930s, but the allusion is to Samuel Taylor Coleridge’s poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798) in which the Ancient Mariner shoots the albatross, a ‘pious bird of good omen’. As a result, the ship is becalmed, all suffer and his companions hang the bird round his neck as a punishment. 

From The Times (13 October 1999): The Victoria and Albert Museum was founded on radical principal, but then got weighed down by its huge collection, which has become like an albatross around its neck.

In golf, the word is used for a score of three strokes under par.

I’m so eager to squeeze in the phrase “an albatross around the neck” somewhere into my writing. That said, I understand nothing of the golf reference. Bye!  

Where have all the sparrows gone?


I was sitting in my balcony today, when I noticed a sparrow perched on a wall of the house opposite to mine. I took out my sketchpad and made a quick sketch of him. Just as I was finishing he flew away.



I looked around to see if there were any other sparrows nearby; there weren’t. Then I realized that was the first sparrow I had seen in months, years, even. Where have all the sparrows gone? The bird that you would see everywhere when I was a child, the bird who had led its way into so many of my nursery rhymes – has vanished now. I remembered the story of how ornithologist Dr. Salim Ali developed an interest in birds when he came across a rare Yellow Throated Sparrow. It’s funny how the Common Sparrow is just as rare, now. And who is to blame, but us?

I sat there thinking of the many things that have changed around me in the short span of my life. There are few big trees around, and the houses are larger. There are less number of people on the street, only cars and bikes. There are less number of birds around my house, less chirping, very few of the butterflies that I loved to look at come here now. And we can owe it all to pollution.

Development happens when there is less green and more steel; when children stay glued to computers and mobile phones even in their early teens; when the noise of the traffic is more than the happy chirping of the birds in spring; when the air is filled with so much smoke that you keep your windows shut at all times; when the hills are slowly dug out to build cities and skyscrapers. I wonder what has happened to the world, in such a small time?

I would like to believe that the sparrows have flown off to a better place.