Saturday 20 March 2010

You Pigeoning Pigeon

A brief look at British fauna:

Chicken - Coward
Cow - Unpleasant lady
Dog - Ugly lady
Catty - Unpleasant, complaining
Pussy - Coward (also a specific kind of scarf worn by pupils at Winchester College)
Sheep - One who follows
Sheepish - Subservient
Fox - Pretty young lady
Fox - Decieve
Horse - Heroin
Stag - Engaged drunk
Crow - To boast
Rabbit - Talk constantly
Rat - Traitor
Squirrel - To hoard
Pig - Greedy person

Pigeon - ?

Duck actually derives from the verb to duck meaning to go under water. The Old English word was ened.

The lack of a meaning for pigeon bothers me. I want to go around calling people pigeons. I want to shout: "Stop pigeoning, you bloody pigeon." But I fear that I would be being more meaningless than usual.

Pigeon used to have several meanings: a young girl, a sweetheart, a coward, one who was swindled or possibly a combination of all four. Pigeon milk was "An imaginary article for which children are sent on a fool's errand" (OED). Letters sent by carrier pigeon were called pigeongrams. But these are all obselete so pigeon is now ripe for signification. Suggestions in the comments, please.

This from London Fields by Martin Amis:

At one point as I walked under a tree I felt the warm kiss of a voluptuous dewdrop on my crown. Gratefully I ran a hand through my hair - and what do I find? Birdshit. Pigeonshit. I'm feeling okay for once, I'm feeling medium cool, and a London pigeon goes and takes a dump on my head. It had this effect on me: despair. I swore and stumbled around, bedgraggled, helpless, the diet of a London pigeon being something that really doesn't bear thinking about. I mean what the digestive system of a London pigeon considers as waste...

Incidentally, Pidgin English is so called because pidgin was, apparently, how the Chinese used to pronounce business.

Yet another website posting photographs of pussies


  1. Pigeon - embonpoint
    Pigeon - clype/grass/snitch

    (Does anyone still say 'You silly goose'?)

  2. The Antipodean20 June 2010 at 07:02

    Glenn McGrath is / was called Pigeon, derived from pigeon legs. Unfortunately, no extreme personal attributes spring to mind that you could link to an insult. 'You bowler of metronomic accuracy' is kinda boring, and possibly more of a compliment, particularly if you're either of these chaps, apparently.

  3. The Antipodean21 June 2010 at 17:02

    There is a decidely Wykehamist flavour to this blog. Sadly, I don't think this usage of the word means I can cross it off my 'use one day in conversation' list, since this is where I learnt it.

    I can, however, cross it off my 'feel smug while reading' list, as I came across it while re-reading a Gavin Lyall book recently. Jeremy is Principal Private Secretary, "tall, with a natural elegance that would never decay into dandyism and always scrupulously polite, having been to that school which believes that it is manners, rather than God, that maketh man, though a spot of money also helps." And apparently has a nasty habit of staring into space: "Jeremy smiled painfully at the Deputy Prime Minister's nickname, took off his reading glasses and looked up to consult some Wykehamist deity that apparently floated a few feet above George's head."

    It is, perhaps, a sign of how I read novels that despite having read this at least twice before I have never bothered to look it up. I don't think I ever connected it to the afore-mentioned school, either.

  4. The Antipodean26 June 2010 at 10:43

    And it is, perhaps, a sign of how I read this blog, that I noticed 'decieve' on the first read-through, and then couldn't remember which post I'd seen it in, despite having commented on said post twice in the interim.