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Where did the expressions "canary in a coal mine" and "bird on a wire" come from

  1. EuroCafeAuLait profile image85
    EuroCafeAuLaitposted 6 years ago

    Where did the expressions "canary in a coal mine" and "bird on a wire" come from? Anyone know?

    this was a song by the Police "Canary in a Coal Mine" and a movie with Goldie Hawn "Bird on a Wire"

  2. plussize-lingerie profile image61
    plussize-lingerieposted 6 years ago

    "Canary in a coal mine" comes from, unsurprisingly, when they used to take canaries in cages into coal mines. They were used to spot poisonous gas - if the canary died, it was time to get out of the mine.

    "Bird on a wire" doesn't really have any origins - it's a visual term, meaning to view something with a detached viewpoint, as a bird on a telephone wire would do.

  3. Gaizy profile image84
    Gaizyposted 6 years ago

    The phrase "Canary in a coal mine" refers to the practice of miners in old times of taking caged canaries into the mines with them as gas detectors. The canaries were much more sensitive to gas to gas than the miners, and if they keeled over off their perches, it was time to quickly leave the mine.

    As for "bird on a wire", other than the title of the Leonard Cohen song of the same name, I can't find any references to it. It may refer to the old practice of capturing songbirds by smearing a sticky substance on fence-wire, so that when they landed on it they were stuck

  4. WD Curry 111 profile image60
    WD Curry 111posted 6 years ago

    Canary in a coal mine - Back in the day, coal miners took a canary into the mine with them. When it quit singing, and fell off of its perch, they new the air was toxic and got out fast. Now it refers to a person who is expendable and is in a vulnerable position . . . like a branch manager at a regional bank.*

    Bird on a wire - Self explanatory to a point. Modern birds and squirrels can run around to their hearts content, but before they installed protective devices, the bird could land or wander onto a hot spot and get cooked. This refers to a person who is in a vulnerable position . . .  like a branch manager at a regional bank.*

    * The FDIC, Federal Reserve, and Department of Treasuury (under the direction of Timothy Franz Geitner) are closing regional banks, expropriating their assets and handing them over to favored TARP recipients. They are being advised by Deutsche Bank. Do some homework and wake up, America!

    You can't say I did not warn you.

  5. Misty May profile image84
    Misty Mayposted 6 years ago

    The Canary in a coal mine expression came from the old days of mining when they would bring a canary in a cage with them. If dangerous gases such as methane or carbon monoxide leaked into the mine-shaft, the gases would kill the canary before killing the miners thus warning them to get out of there. So the expression genarally means that trouble is comming, or a warning of danger. The expression "bird on a wire" I beleive means having a different veiw point or a situation where you arn't involved and can see the situation more clearly.

  6. profile image0
    MP50posted 6 years ago


    I was a coal miner in South Wales U.K. Many years ago we used to take canaries down underground with us in a cage for methane gas testing.

    The canary in the cage would be put on long stick and lifted into pockets in the ceiling of the coal face to check for the methane gas.

    The canary would only die depending on the amount of gas in the ceiling pockets, most canaries do survive. there is no need to leave the mine.

    Just get away from the area and the coal mines vetilation system normally takes the methane gas out.

    When I left the coal mines the canaries were phased out and replaced by oil lamps, these lamps were a sealed flame and we used to blow a sample of the air pocket into the lamp.

    If the flame exploded inside the lamp, this meant to much methane gas, if the flame went out, this meant just air.

    Don't know about the bird on a wire? Goldie Hawn is well Hot!!!!....big_smile

  7. hawkdad73 profile image68
    hawkdad73posted 6 years ago

    'Canary in a coal mine' refers to miners' early alert system to dangers.  Since canaries are more sensitive to gasses and the like, if they die, the miners knew to get out.

    I thin 'bird on a wire' refers to being in a tense situation; or probably being alert.

  8. sunasia22 profile image71
    sunasia22posted 6 years ago

    The saying “canary in a coal mine” came from the practice of bringing birds into mines as an early warning system. If the canary died, then there was too much methane and not enough ventilation and the miners needed to get out. It saved the miners, but didn’t turn out too well for the birds.
    "Bird on a wire" is the practice of putting 'lime' on wire fences or creating wire perches in order to trap songbirds - their feet stuck to the lime.  The poor bird is struggling in vain to escape. The technique originated in the middle ages but not sure how long it continued.