sitting in the catbird seat

April 10, 2008

CAT-BIRD seated.

If you are sitting in the “Catbird Seat” you are sitting pretty, or in a favored position. You have the upper hand, an advantage.

Now there seems to be a bit of debate on whether the legendary baseball broadcaster Red Barber coined this phrase or if he borrowed the folksy phrase from his Southern origins. Some feel he may have lifted the phrase from James Thurber’s 1942 short story of the same name “The Catbird Seat.” However, according to Wikipedia, Barber’s daughter claims her dad began using the phrase only after reading Thurber’s story. But then Red Barber says Thurber purloined the term from him… and so it goes, back and forth. Is it really important? Not so much.

In another part of the world, the Australian bowerbird is also known as the catbird. This little guy is known for his elaborate, artistic displays, in order to attract a mate. Some males will gather up hundreds of shells, colored glass or rock and arrange them into a remarkable “seat” upon which his potential mate will be enthroned. A favored postion? Sitting pretty perhaps?

Hmmmmm. I think I get it now.

Well, regardless of the etymology, it seems our hero above, in the makeshift bird costume, as hard as he may be trying, is not fooling anyone, least of all his little bird friend. Cat-bird is in anything but a favored postion. Nor is he sitting or otherwise pretty.


As an aside, I hadn’t realized until looking up the etymology for this phrase that the bowerbird would be involved. Ironically, my friend Laurel at Studio Lolo had posted a beautiful painting of one of these magical fellows. Take a look.

7 Responses to “sitting in the catbird seat”

  1. Ratlion Says:

    Something weird just happened. I was over here to leave you this message –
    ‘No problem@ Mixed up comments ๐Ÿ™‚ The funniest thing though is that, for a minute there you actually had me looking through my archives for ‘Leap’, wondering why I couldn’t remember how it looked or even having done it! Lol! Welcome to my life…
    and had even pressed the ‘submit comment’ button when …the post (Illustration Friday ‘Save’) disappeared?!
    (I did’nt do anything, really!)
    Is it me? Or did you delete it?!
    Anyhoo, came back to find this new post, and have to say, love your hero, makeshift bird costume and all!

  2. sketched out Says:

    Radha, that is so funny. It’s been a weird day, blog-wise. When I posted “Catbird”, somehow I must have posted over “Save.” I felt like throwing up, and woke my poor husband up, (a person who gets a sane amount of sleep, usually.) Love him to pieces. Together with a crying me, he and I put our heads together and figured out if you Google your blog you can sometimes get your posts. I then hit cache and voila, there it was. I was able to reconstruct, and luckily the comments were still there as well.

    Couple that with the weird comment mishap on your blog and …oye!

    Anyway, thanks for your sweet comment! Always good to hear from you.

  3. tombarrett Says:

    Glad you got your blog back in order.

    I always thought a catbird was a real animal, so thanks for clearing that up! I think this kitty’s act is a cry for attention.

    Great sketch as always!

  4. artseafartsea Says:

    That is a LOL moment for sure! The cat is a riot. Good idea. Sounds like something Merlin would do. Thanks for the laff.

  5. Faruffa Says:

    I relish your illustrations about ways of saying, and I like to learn them. In Italy we have not a similar way to say this, but I found very funny Joey’s interpretation.
    Unfortunately, I know only a little English, and reading posts is quite demanding, I suffer in writing comments, because I would like to say so many things that I’m not able to translate.
    …uff uff I hope I’m understandable
    Ciao Vitti :o)

  6. sketched out Says:

    Tom, thanks, and yes, I think you just might be right. It certainly appears to be a cry for attention, heehee.

    Artsea Fartsea, thanks. I can just see Merlin doing something like that.

    Vittoria, I think you a fantastic job of commenting and I really appreciate the effort you go through in order to do so. Please don’t feel self-conscious.

    Italian is actually a language I would love to learn, being that I am half Italian by decent. Ciao!

  7. studio lolo Says:

    I always knew we had a mind connection ๐Ÿ™‚ I’ve sent you an email about my cat-bird seat! Your’s is da bomb! And your bird is fancier. Mine’s a pigeon.

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