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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 13:38   #1
cwbirder
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"Bird" as a Verb

Hello everyone,

The other day I was arguing with a (non-birding) friend of mine who is (in my opinion) overly pedantic about word definitions. She was arguing that "bird" cannot be a verb (as in "to bird," eg "I would like to make a quick stop to bird that sewage treatment plant, because it is good for peeps."). Her point was that "bird" is not listed as a verb in any dictionary except Wiktionary, at least that we could find online, in the sense of "bird watching." There is an archaic sense of "to bird" that has the meaning of "pursuing birds with the intent to hunt them," but that was only in a few dictionaries and seems to not be in much current use (the references to this usage were from several centuries ago).

Because I am, perhaps, a bit obstinate about some things, I was trying to find the oldest recorded use of "bird" as a verb in the way that we birders use it today. I was able to find a quote in the Miami Herald newspaper from 1983 where a park ranger is quoted as saying "It's a very confusing thing to bird down here" [because the birds are in winter plumage, which makes them harder to ID]. The database I was using was one for newspapers, and only goes back to 1972. It also looks like the database is pretty North America-focused. It does carry a few of the major UK papers, and in searching these, I can't readily find any references to "bird" being used as a verb.

My questions for anyone who feels like joining in on this debate are:
1. Do birders outside of the US use "bird" as a stand-alone verb (meaning, essentially "to birdwatch" or "to birdwatch at" [place])?

2. Does anyone know of any usages of "bird" as a verb older than the 1983 newspaper article that I mentioned above?

3. Also, what are your thoughts? Do you use "bird" as a verb? Do you agree with my non-birding friend, that such a thing should not be allowed and is a travesty to the English language?
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 13:57   #2
Jim M.
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Originally Posted by cwbirder View Post
2. Does anyone know of any usages of "bird" as a verb older than the 1983 newspaper article that I mentioned above?

3. Also, what are your thoughts? Do you use "bird" as a verb? Do you agree with my non-birding friend, that such a thing should not be allowed and is a travesty to the English language?
I've been using "bird" as a verb since the 60s. It's included as a verb in my 1996 American Heritage Dictionary of the English language with the definition of “to observe and identify birds in their natural surroundings.” I see absolutely nothing wrong with using it as a verb.

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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 13:57   #3
Essex Tern
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I am English and very much use the verb to bird - might not be an official word, but accepted slang in this country - is very niche as a word though, used mostly by those that partake.
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 14:02   #4
Andrew Whitehouse
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It may be worth pointing out to your friend that 'birding' appears three times in The Merry Wives of Windsor:
http://www.shakespeareswords.com/Hea....aspx?Ref=2205
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 14:04   #5
andyadcock
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1 Yes, have done in the UK as long as I can remember, probably at least as long as Americans?

Scandinavian's also use the term, when speaking English anyway, would be interesting to ask if they use as a verb in their native language, do Germans go 'Vogeling' or the French 'Oiseauxing'......!?

3 Yes I do and most other birders do too, your friend is talking crap.


A

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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 15:23   #6
Egrets Ivadafew
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'She laments sir...her husband goes this morning a birding' -William Shakespeare.
(Unless of course your friend considers she has a better grasp of English than the immortal bard).
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 15:33   #7
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"Birding" is well established as a term of art in our hobby and has been for decades. In my experience, it's still not widely understood in general usage so when talking to non-birders I normally use "bird watching" instead.

Here's an old thread on this subject--
http://www.birdforum.net/showthread.php?t=336235
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 16:46   #8
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Originally Posted by Andrew Whitehouse View Post
It may be worth pointing out to your friend that 'birding' appears three times in The Merry Wives of Windsor:
http://www.shakespeareswords.com/Hea....aspx?Ref=2205
Though that"s catching birds, rather than watching them
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 17:01   #9
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Though that"s catching birds, rather than watching them
Kind of doesn't matter, in terms of point scoring vs the unbeliever.

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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 17:02   #10
Egrets Ivadafew
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Still a verb.
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 17:21   #11
Paul Chapman
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Originally Posted by Nutcracker View Post
Though that"s catching birds, rather than watching them
I thought that it was a reference to falconry?
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 18:10   #12
fugl
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I thought that it was a reference to falconry?
I've always interpreted it as going after ducks with a blunderbuss, as "wildfowling", in other words.
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 18:11   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by andyadcock View Post
do Germans go 'Vogeling'
Germans do indeed do "vögeln" but most of the time they mean having sex rather then go birding...
"Birding" or the germanised verb "birden" is frequently used (when talking German)
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 18:17   #14
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In Dutch "vogelen" can mean birdwatching now. But be careful: it can (and in Belgium it will) mean the same thing as in Germany.
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 18:17   #15
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Just consulted Mr. Google for help with our little problem. This from the Wikipedia entry for "birdwatching"--

"The first recorded use of the term birdwatcher was in 1891; bird was introduced as a verb in 1918.[3] The term birding was also used for the practice of fowling or hunting with firearms as in Shakespeare's The Merry Wives of Windsor (1602): "She laments sir... her husband goes this morning a-birding."[4] The terms birding and birdwatching are today used by some interchangeably. . ..".

[The paragraph continues with the sillyass assertion that "some participants" prefer "birding" to "birdwatching" on the grounds that the former includes the "auditory" dimension of the hobby.]
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 19:31   #16
Simon Wates
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Agree on its a verb.

One things for sure, bird is the word : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Gc4QTqslN4
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 19:35   #17
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I read that some people scanned English texts and passed them through a computer, and many terms make their way to dictionaries only several decades after they became regular use. 'To bird' seems to be one. Are 'to google' or 'internet' in any English dictionary?
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 19:38   #18
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In any case, cwbirder, your friend is talking nonsense. There is no 'Academie' or 'Academia' that determines prescriptive rules on the English language (thankfully). The OED, Websters or Chambers or whoever have no authoritative remit...they are merely reporting on changes in usage, rather than legislating. English is flexible and has adapted to different cultures and groups worldwide in different ways. Here, 'Bird' as a verb is certainly used in its current sense only by 'Birdwatchers'. That doesn't mean it's wrong, only that I must use 'Birdwatching' if speaking to a non-Birder. Obviously 'Bird' as a verb has been in use for centuries, albeit with different meanings, i.e. to kill 'em, not just look at 'em. So what...a verb changes meaning slightly over the years. Fancy that.
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 19:47   #19
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I definitely use bird as a verb, as do others in this hobby, and it seems generally understood by others outside the hobby as well. Language is dynamic, meanings and usage of words change over time and there's nothing wrong with accepting changes that become widely used.

Brings to mind a Calvin and Hobbes strip about "verbing", i.e. the tendency to take nouns and start using them as verbs. Maybe your friend agrees that "verbing weirds language"
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 19:48   #20
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Besides, for our original poster in the US, it is in the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary as a verb anyhow.
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 21:18   #21
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Besides, for our original poster in the US, it is in the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary as a verb anyhow.
That settles it then......



A
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 21:50   #22
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In any case, cwbirder, your friend is talking nonsense. There is no 'Academie' or 'Academia' that determines prescriptive rules on the English language (thankfully). The OED, Websters or Chambers or whoever have no authoritative remit...they are merely reporting on changes in usage, rather than legislating. English is flexible and has adapted to different cultures and groups worldwide in different ways. Here, 'Bird' as a verb is certainly used in its current sense only by 'Birdwatchers'. That doesn't mean it's wrong, only that I must use 'Birdwatching' if speaking to a non-Birder. Obviously 'Bird' as a verb has been in use for centuries, albeit with different meanings, i.e. to kill 'em, not just look at 'em. So what...a verb changes meaning slightly over the years. Fancy that.
Couldn't agree more, but English usage is so bound up with class and educational level as to trigger all sorts of insecurities. Thus all the fuss.
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Old Sunday 10th September 2017, 23:12   #23
Jim M.
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Besides, for our original poster in the US, it is in the Oxford Advanced American Dictionary as a verb anyhow.
Yes, as was pointed out in my post, the second in this thread, it is in American dictionaries in the sense used on this forum, and has been for at least two decades.

[EDIT: make that over three decades; just checked my 1982 American Heritage (one of my favorite dictionaries), and it also has the same def. My 1950 unabridged Webster's lacks the definition, however.]

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Old Monday 11th September 2017, 01:37   #24
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Three comments: 1) my Oxford Advanced Learners from 1974 does not include this as a verb. Whether a more complete (unabridged?) version of the dictionary would have contained it at that time I do not know.
2) When I last lived in Denmark in 2002 we did not have a corresponding verb (at fugle?) but most knew the English form "to bird".
3) The original (scientific) bird studying did use shotguns rather than binoculars. I guess that any optical instrument was either extremely poor quality, much more expensive than a shotgun, or both, when we go back 120 years.

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Old Monday 11th September 2017, 20:08   #25
Sancho
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Brings to mind a Calvin and Hobbes strip about "verbing", i.e. the tendency to take nouns and start using them as verbs. Maybe your friend agrees that "verbing weirds language"
Mind you...I hate it when I hear 'action' used as a verb. Particularly if it's 'going forward'.
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