While watching some of my fine-looking bird friends just before a rain shower the other evening, I got to wondering about the origin of the expression “fine feathered friends”.As a child, I learned from my father that we “look it up” if we want to find out about something. I recall running often to the bookshelf to get some sort of reference book – Dad’s large collection of volumes about words and word meanings grew yearly from the gifts of word-related books we would give him. So, I looked up the expression ‘fine-feathered friend’ in the Merriam-Webster New Book of Word Histories, the Webster’s Dictionary of Word Origins, and other similar sources, but alas, I couldn’t find it. Nowadays, though, we have the internet, and there I found many tales as to the true origin of ‘fine-feathered friend’, including debates as to whether ‘fine’ and ‘feathered’ are really two words or one hyphenated word.
The Word Detective‘s website tells us that the original term is hyphenated, and refers to one whose feathers are fine, rather than to one who both ‘has feathers’ and ‘is fine’! ” . . . ‘fine-feathered friend’ seems to have been, all along, a compliment to humans by allusion to a bird with beautiful plumage.” One source told me this expression has been used in Old English since the 1500’s!Among other tidbits from the first half of the 20th century, I learned (from Wikipedia) that “Fine Feathered Friend was the title a 1942 one-reel animated cartoon and is the 8th Tom and Jerry short released by Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer.”
And, then my favorite discovery . . . look what else I came across in my investigations about the expression “fine-feathered friend”!!
From the Cat in the Hat’s Learning Library, a book entitled: Fine Feathered Friends: All About Birds, by Tish Rabe (1998). Who knew?? I was an avid reader of Dr. Seuss and all the Cat in the Hat stories, but somehow, I missed this book when it came out ;-D
As a passionate birder, I feel that I really must have this book, so I just ordered my first copy!