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

Jump to Last Post 1-8 of 8 discussions (8 posts)
  1. EuroCafeAuLait profile image81
    EuroCafeAuLaitposted 10 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 image60
    plussize-lingerieposted 10 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 image76
    Gaizyposted 10 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 image56
    WD Curry 111posted 10 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 image82
    Misty Mayposted 10 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 10 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 image60
    hawkdad73posted 10 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 image77
    sunasia22posted 10 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.


This website uses cookies

As a user in the EEA, your approval is needed on a few things. To provide a better website experience, hubpages.com uses cookies (and other similar technologies) and may collect, process, and share personal data. Please choose which areas of our service you consent to our doing so.

For more information on managing or withdrawing consents and how we handle data, visit our Privacy Policy at: https://corp.maven.io/privacy-policy

Show Details
HubPages Device IDThis is used to identify particular browsers or devices when the access the service, and is used for security reasons.
LoginThis is necessary to sign in to the HubPages Service.
Google RecaptchaThis is used to prevent bots and spam. (Privacy Policy)
AkismetThis is used to detect comment spam. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide data on traffic to our website, all personally identifyable data is anonymized. (Privacy Policy)
HubPages Traffic PixelThis is used to collect data on traffic to articles and other pages on our site. Unless you are signed in to a HubPages account, all personally identifiable information is anonymized.
Amazon Web ServicesThis is a cloud services platform that we used to host our service. (Privacy Policy)
CloudflareThis is a cloud CDN service that we use to efficiently deliver files required for our service to operate such as javascript, cascading style sheets, images, and videos. (Privacy Policy)
Google Hosted LibrariesJavascript software libraries such as jQuery are loaded at endpoints on the googleapis.com or gstatic.com domains, for performance and efficiency reasons. (Privacy Policy)
Google Custom SearchThis is feature allows you to search the site. (Privacy Policy)
Google MapsSome articles have Google Maps embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
Google ChartsThis is used to display charts and graphs on articles and the author center. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSense Host APIThis service allows you to sign up for or associate a Google AdSense account with HubPages, so that you can earn money from ads on your articles. No data is shared unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Google YouTubeSome articles have YouTube videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
VimeoSome articles have Vimeo videos embedded in them. (Privacy Policy)
PaypalThis is used for a registered author who enrolls in the HubPages Earnings program and requests to be paid via PayPal. No data is shared with Paypal unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook LoginYou can use this to streamline signing up for, or signing in to your Hubpages account. No data is shared with Facebook unless you engage with this feature. (Privacy Policy)
MavenThis supports the Maven widget and search functionality. (Privacy Policy)
Google AdSenseThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Google DoubleClickGoogle provides ad serving technology and runs an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Index ExchangeThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
SovrnThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Facebook AdsThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Unified Ad MarketplaceThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
AppNexusThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
OpenxThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Rubicon ProjectThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
TripleLiftThis is an ad network. (Privacy Policy)
Say MediaWe partner with Say Media to deliver ad campaigns on our sites. (Privacy Policy)
Remarketing PixelsWe may use remarketing pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to advertise the HubPages Service to people that have visited our sites.
Conversion Tracking PixelsWe may use conversion tracking pixels from advertising networks such as Google AdWords, Bing Ads, and Facebook in order to identify when an advertisement has successfully resulted in the desired action, such as signing up for the HubPages Service or publishing an article on the HubPages Service.
Author Google AnalyticsThis is used to provide traffic data and reports to the authors of articles on the HubPages Service. (Privacy Policy)
ComscoreComScore is a media measurement and analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to enterprises, media and advertising agencies, and publishers. Non-consent will result in ComScore only processing obfuscated personal data. (Privacy Policy)
Amazon Tracking PixelSome articles display amazon products as part of the Amazon Affiliate program, this pixel provides traffic statistics for those products (Privacy Policy)
ClickscoThis is a data management platform studying reader behavior (Privacy Policy)