Ostrich on a Spin

December 16, 2023by Rajeev Hora0

Ostrich on a Spin
Resilience, hope and immunity of the flightless bird to the fore?

Flightless birds are the ones which have lost the ability to fly, primarily due to evolution. It is believed that about 60 such species are still surviving. Out of these, the ostrich and the penguins have gained a fair deal of prominence. The ostrich, which is incidentally the largest living bird in existence, can reach up to 2.7 m and over 150 kg at maturity.

This beautiful bird has however found infamy for a very different reason altogether. The well-known idiom passed down from the ancient times, talks about, ‘burying one’s head in the sand like an ostrich’. Simply put, ignoring or denying the existence of a problem in the hope that it will go away.

Exploring the genesis of the idiom, people who observed this behavior amongst the ostriches concluded that they did this to avoid predators. Essentially implying the stupidity of the bird. If it could not see the predator, it presumed that vice versa was also true.

Dispelling this myth, naturalists point out a different reason altogether. Nesting ostriches do so to turn their eggs several times a day, which they have laid in shallow sand holes. As far as avoidance of predators is concerned, ostriches like other creatures in distress, run for their dear lives. And oh boy! With a top speed of 45 mph, they sure can outrun most of them. Look up the YouTube and you will see what a pretty sight a running ostrich makes.

Anyway, this idiomatic expression continues much like another one, ‘spinning a yarn’. This particular one, as we all are familiar with, is about relating a far-fetched, imaginative or fanciful story. The usage of the phrase often casts subtle aspersions of skeptism on the taleteller.

It is believed that this idiom’s origins date back to the early 19th century where seamen often had to spend a great deal of time repairing rope onboard the ship. This involved twisting fibers together which came to be termed as ‘spinning yarn’. Further, since the activity was tedious and boring at times, seamen used to often tell each other long stories to while away the time. Hence, the modern-day ‘spin a yarn’.

 Continuing on our idiomatic journey, not many are aware about the etymology with respect to ‘being taken for a ride’. As is widely known, the phrase is about deceiving or tricking someone and certainly not about taking your beloved for a pleasure ride on your new BMW.

 It did however have its ‘not so humble’ beginnings amongst the US mafia gangs of the 1920s. An errant gang member or someone deserving a similar treatment was gently escorted off in a car to a remote place.  Once taken for such a ride, invariably there was no coming back for the unsuspecting and hapless victim.

 I musingly wonder how idioms can fantastically come together to tell a story. The seamen no longer repair rope on-board ships but men have not stopped spinning their yarns. Achhe din, Bure din, Indira lao desh bachao, Garibi hatao, Amrit kaal, India shining, Swatchh bharat….. With our heads buried, we are constantly being taken for a ride by successive spin masters for well over seven decades.

Whereas stinking sewages, garbage galore, restless traffic, soaring population, redundant education, increasing crime, reducing tolerance, rising tempers, unending corruption, pot-holed roads, broken pavements, dying lakes, eroding forests, receding ground waters and unbelievable AQIs are the reality of the day. The list is endless and surprisingly, it has stopped hurting. Resilience, hope and immunity of the flightless bird to the fore?

We see it all day in and day out. 1.4 billion ostriches and a handful of seductive spin masters. The ostriches are mesmerized and the predators are making a killing.

Little realizing, we are where we are, not because of them, but in spite of them!

Unable to look away or fly away.
A fellow avian,
Horax (Casper)

 First published at seekmediation.com on 16/12/23

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