An Owl?

Discussion in 'Linguistics' started by Xotica, Feb 12, 2012.

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  1. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

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    My dear linguist friends...

    Son of an owl! You are the daughter of an owl!

    In South Central Asia (Pakistan/India/Bangladesh) the above examples are considered to be derogatory in Urdu/Hindhi/Sindhi/Bengali and (I suspect) Pashtun. An owl? Anyone here have a clue why this is so?
     
  2. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

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    My thoughts would be that perhaps it implies one was 'born at night' as the owl is largely a nocturnal hunter.

    Rather ties in with another expression I am familiar with, "I was born at night, but not last night." :D

    Just a guess on my part. I am interested to see what others have to suggest.
     
  3. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    In German and in some Slavic languages, an owl when used in reference to a person, means an ugly, unkind woman.
    It's common in several European languages to use words for animals to talk about humans, usually in a derogatory sense - "You/he/she are /is a pig, goat, cow, owl, hen, dog."
    Sometimes, in a comparative: to work as a horse (ie. to work very hard), to be as poor as a church mouse (to be very poor), to work as a bee (ie. to work very diligently).

    The spirit of Aesop's fables is very much alive in European languages.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aesop's_Fables


    From Wiki:

    Africa

    Among the Kikuyu of Kenya it was believed that owls were harbingers of death. If one saw an owl or heard its hoot, someone was going to die. In general, owls are viewed as harbingers of bad luck, ill health, or death. The belief is widespread even today.[31]


    The Americas

    In the culture of the Uto-Aztec tribe, the Hopi, taboos surround owls, which are associated with sorcery and other evils. The Aztecs and Maya, along with other Natives of Mesoamerica, considered the owl a symbol of death and destruction. In fact, the Aztec god of death, Mictlantecuhtli, was often depicted with owls. There is an old saying in Mexico that is still in use[32]: Cuando el tecolote canta, el indio muere ("When the owl cries/sings, the Indian dies"). The Popol Vuh, a Mayan religious text, describes owls as messengers of Xibalba (the Mayan "Place of Fright").[33] The belief that owls are messengers and harbingers of the dark powers is also found among the Hočągara (Winnebago) of Wisconsin.[34] When in earlier days the Hočągara committed the sin of killing enemies while they were within the sanctuary of the chief's lodge, an owl appeared and spoke to them in the voice of a human, saying, "From now on the Hočągara will have no luck." This marked the beginning of the decline of their tribe.[35] An owl appeared to Glory of the Morning, the only female chief of the Hočąk nation, and uttered her name. Soon afterwards she died.[36] People often allude to the reputation of owls as bearers of supernatural danger when they tell misbehaving children, "the owls will get you." [37] Also, in the native Cherokee culture, as well as many other Native American cultures, owls are a very bad omen. It is said that if you are outside in the broad day light and owl flies over your head a family member or loved one would die within the coming week.


    Middle East

    In Arab mythology, owls are seen as bad omens.[38]


    Hinduism

    In Hinduism, an owl is the vahana, mount, of Goddess Lakshmi.


    Western culture

    The modern West generally associates owls with wisdom. This link goes back at least as far as Ancient Greece, where Athens, noted for art and scholarship, and Athena, Athens' patron goddess and the goddess of wisdom, had the owl as a symbol.[39] Marija Gimbutas traces veneration of the owl as a goddess, among other birds, to the culture of Old Europe, long pre-dating Indo-European cultures.[40]

    T. F. Thiselton-Dyer in his Folk-lore of Shakespeare says that "from the earliest period it has been considered a bird of ill-omen, and Pliny tells us how, on one occasion, even Rome itself underwent a lustration, because one of them strayed into the Capitol. He represents it also as a funereal bird, a monster of the night, the very abomination of human kind. Virgil describes its death-howl from the top of the temple by night, a circumstance introduced as a precursor of Dido's death. Ovid, too, constantly speaks of this bird's presence as an evil omen; and indeed the same notions respecting it may be found among the writings of most of the ancient poets." [41]

    In France, where owls are divided into eared owls (hiboux) and earless owls (chouettes), the former are seen as symbols of wisdom while the latter are assigned the grimmer meaning.


    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Owl
     
    Last edited: Feb 12, 2012
  4. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

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    It's fascinating how different culture's can view the exact same thing very differently.

    This reminds me that customs can also be very different in regards to the same thing. For example, in the West people pre-sweeten their tea with a spoonful of sugar. In many parts of the Middle East however the process is a bit different (and quite a bit trickier). You place a sugar cube between the front teeth and then slowly sip the tea.
     
  5. cosmictraveler Be kind to yourself always. Valued Senior Member

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    Owls come out at night and sleep during the day usually. They aren't sociable and also don't live to long. Perhaps that is why some might see them as a way to insult someone.
     
  6. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    Most of the people I work with are from India. I'll ask them tomorrow. (Yes, I'm in I.T.)
     
  7. Cifo Day destroys the night, Registered Senior Member

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    I'm thinking that the insult concerns the owl's general resemblance to humans: their big forward-looking eyes (which give them binocular vision for depth perception), their human-shaped head that pivots about the vertical, and their general upright stature with their two legs and feet underneath. Yet they are nothing more than an animal.

    Thus an animal that only seems human.

    A brown fish owl in India.
    [​IMG]
     
  8. Enmos Staff Member

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    The Eagle Owl can live for 20 years in the wild although like many other bird species in captivity they can live much longer, perhaps up to 60 years.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eurasian_Eagle-Owl

    :D

    Picture:
    [​IMG]
     
  9. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    Owls can be rather spooky -

    If you've ever seen an owl in flight- and noticed that you didn't hear much, or anything at all - you know first-hand what that owlish spookiness is like.
    Similar with bats.

    Not to mention the skills with which they master to fly through the forest and past other obstacles - in what for humans is almost complete darkness.
    That kind of skill can easily fill people with an unease awe.
     
  10. Enmos Staff Member

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    Neither are humans.

    Owls are not spooky.

    And neither are bats.
     
  11. wynn ˙ Valued Senior Member

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    To many people, owls and bats are spooky.
     
  12. aaqucnaona This sentence is a lie Valued Senior Member

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    Owl is translated as ullu [I think] in those languages. Ullu is a slang, means idiot or asshole [something along those lines].

    Son of an owl is not used like son of a bitch, more like 'redneck' - An insult aimed at the intellectual capacity of a person or his close ones, the insult being a slang, not a metaphor. eg - bastard, not dickhead.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2012
  13. Enmos Staff Member

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    Well, that's their problem. It doesn't mean that they are.
     
  14. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

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    [​IMG]
     
  15. Fraggle Rocker Staff Member

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    They said that the reason it's an insult is that owls are sneaky. Nocturnal predators are all regarded as sneaky in most cultures. However, in Anglo-American culture the owl is a symbol of wisdom: "The wise old owl." The fact that owls are nocturnal predators isn't very important to us, since they're too small to be a threat to our children, or even to our dogs and cats. They eat rats and other vermin, so in fact they perform a valuable service for us!
    This gives them a scholarly appearance as though they are wearing glasses. This may be one of the reasons we regard them as wise.
    There are only six kingdoms of living things on this planet: Animals, Plants, Fungi, Algae, Bacteria, and Archaea.

    You are obviously not a weed, a mushroom, a lichen, a germ, or a nanoarchaeum. So you must be an animal: just like all other mammals, as well as all birds, reptiles, amphibians, fish, insects, spiders, cephalopods, starfish, worms, etc.
    Many predatory birds have special kinds of small feathers on the edges of their wings that damp the sound waves they produce when flapping. Owls have the best of these and are the most silent of fliers.
    Bats have no feathers and are not as silent in flight as owls. However, they can glide pretty well, which is a very quiet way to move around in the dark.
    Unlike most birds, the photoreceptors in owls' eyes are mostly rods rather than cones. Rods are more sensitive to light, providing better nocturnal vision, but they are not sensitive to differences in color. Like most nocturnal animals, owls see almost completely in black and white rather than color. (A few owl species are diurnal, so this doesn't apply to them.)

    Most other birds are practically blind at night, but they have more different kinds of daylight photoreceptors than we do (four or more instead of three) so they can see up into the ultraviolet spectrum. This is how they can tell the males from the females when they all look alike to us: their plumage has ultraviolet pigmentation.
    My Indian friends tell me a better translation would be "scoundrel" or "sneaky bastard."
    "Redneck" was originally a regional insult, referring to poor farmers in Appalachia. There are several hypotheses regarding its etyomology. One of the most persuasive relates to the fact that originally many of the people there were Presbyterian immigrants from Scotland, who had worn red kerchiefs in the old country to identify themselves. The Scottish ruling class called these rebels "rednecks." It may also be simply a reference to necks sunburned by long hours working in the fields. After Civil War, when the Appalachian community aligned politically and culturally with the South, Northerners began using the word for all people from the former Confederacy. Today Southerners may use it with pride, e.g., Gretchen Wilson's hit song "Redneck Woman." In the rest of America, "Redneck" has become a derogatory term for anyone (especially people of modest means) with the stererotyped Southern cultural values of racism, sexism, evangelical Christianity and political conservatism, and often carries with it the implication of poor education and drunken brawls.
    Spookiness is entirely subjective. Something that's spooky to Person A may not be spooky to Person B, and vice versa. I have no problem walking through East Los Angeles at 3am, but I'm scared to be in Mississippi in broad daylight.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2012
  16. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

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    Speaking of birds, I'll tell you all a little story.

    At many busy intersections in Karachi, Pakistan, you will see men walking up and down the traffic lanes carrying rigid nets. Inside these nets are small birds. So I ask my fixer/interpreter what the deal here is. He tells me that if you make a small donation, you will get a bird in return. And then? And then you get to set the bird free. He says that it makes people feel better. So I slide out of the car and a bird-man ambles over. I hand him a 50 rupee note and he holds up three fingers. One by one he extracts three birds and places them directly in my hand. And one by one, I slowly raise my hand and watch them fly off into unfettered freedom.

    I have to say, it does indeed brighten the day and make you feel better :D
     
  17. scheherazade Northern Horse Whisperer Valued Senior Member

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    That's very interesting, Xotica.

    I wonder how the birds are obtained in the first place?

    My mind wanders to the habit of homing pigeons that will return to their home and chickens which return to their roosts at night.

    I wonder if the released birds have been conditioned to return to a feeding location where they can be recaptured?

    Just curious.

    Any viable business requires a 'supply line.'

    Many animals are easy to train to return to a reward situation.
     
  18. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    A casual reference to the workplace, with a dash of humor, bringing chuckles from the gallery.

    The latter evokes a steel guitar, an amp with a hum, stale beer, dirty ashtrays and Jerry Jeff Walker's immortal lampoon:

    Couldn't resist. Now imagine having to weave that idea around the owl!
     
  19. Aqueous Id flat Earth skeptic Valued Senior Member

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    OK, I'll give it a shot:

    M is fer the mice I eat fer brekfuhst
    O is fer the okie barns I adore
    T is fer talons
    H is fer hoot
    E is fer eggs, and
    R is fer Raptor!

    So it's up against the wall Barn Owl Mother...(etc)
     
  20. Xotica Everyday I’m Shufflin Registered Senior Member

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    I did briefly consider the supply-side part of the process, but came to the conclusion that it really didn't matter as long as the birds are not harmed and are willing accomplices.

    Two things occur with this process. It provides an easy avenue for Muslims to partake of Zakat, which is the Islamic requirement to donate to the poor. In tandem with this facet, it simply makes one feel good to release a creature from "captivity". The beauty here is in the simplicity.
     
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