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Source: Voice of America


Now, the VOA Special English program "Words and Their Stories".

Today we explain some expressions about birds. For example, if something is "for the birds," it is worthless or not very interesting. Someone who "eats like a bird" eats very little. And "a birds-eye view" is a general look at an area from above. 
for the birds: inútil, ridículo, que no sirve para nada; worthless: carente de valor; eat like a bird: comer como un pajarito (comer muy poco); a bird's eye view: una vista aérea, desde arriba; area: zona, región;

Did you know that if you tell a young person about "the birds and the bees" you are explaining about sex and birth? Have you ever observed that "birds of a feather flock together"? In other words, people who are similar become friends or do things together. Here is some good advice: "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush." This means you should not risk losing something you have by trying to get more of something you do not have.

the birds and the bees: decir las cosas tal y como son (guía de relaciones sexuales para tímidos e ingenuos); sex and birth: sexo y alumbramiento (parto); birds of a feather flock together: "Dios los cría y ellos se juntan" (literal = los pájaros de un mismo plumaje se juntan entre ellos); advice: consejo; a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush: más vale pájaro en mano que cien volando (literal = un pájaro en la mano vale doble en el arbusto); you should not risk losing: no se debería arriesgar la pérdida de; by trying to: por tratar de;

Sometimes I can do two things by performing only one action. This is called "killing two birds with one stone." But I would never really kill any birds. I love all kinds of animals. This is "a real feather in my cap" -- it is something to be proud of.
killing two birds with one stone: haciendo dos cosas a la vez (literal = matando dos pájaros con una piedra o de un tiro); all kinds of: toda clase de; a real feather in my cap: un auténtico logro personal (literal = un verdadera pluma en mi gorra); to be proud of: de lo cual sentirse orgulloso/a;

Most of the people I work with are "early birds." They believe that "the early bird catches the worm" -- they think that a person who gets up early in the morning for work has the best chance of success. Everyone in my office works hard, but some people "have had their wings clipped" -- their jobs have been limited. This is because the office is organized "by pecking order" -- people with more years and experience are given more responsibility.
early birds: madrugadores; the early bird catches the worm: a quien madruga Dios le ayuda (literal = el pájaro madrugador es el que caza la lombriz); the best chance of success: la mejor oportunidad de alcanzar el éxito; hard: mucho, intensamente; have had their wings clipped: les han cortado las alas; by pecking order: según la jerarquía (literal = por orden de "picoteo" o dominación); are given: les dan;

Some bird expressions are about crows, chickens and ducks. For example, when I am driving, I always "travel as the crow flies" -- I go the most direct way. Anyone who "eats crow" has to admit a mistake or defeat.
crows: cuervos; ducks: patos; I am driving: estoy conduciendo; travel as the crow flies: viajo en línea recta (literal = viajo como vuela el cuervo); eats crow: se traga lo que ha dicho, tiene que pedir disculpas (literal = que come cuervo); has to admit: tiene que admitir; a mistake or defeat: un error o una derrota;

Now let’s talk about my sister. She is not very young. She is no "spring chicken." She will work any job for "chickenfeed" -- a small amount of money. She is easily frightened. For example, she is too "chicken-livered" to walk down a dark street alone at night. Often she will "chicken out" -- she will not go out alone at night.
spring chicken: jovencita (literal = polluela); for chickenfeed: por migajas, por centavos (literal = por pienso para gallinas); easily frightened: se asusta por nada; chicken-livered: asustadiza (literal = con hígado de pollo); alone: sin compañía; chicken out: se acobarda (literal = se agallina);

My sister was an "ugly duckling." She looked strange when she was a child, but she grew up to be a beautiful woman. Sometimes she thinks too much about having something in the future before she really has it. She "counts her chickens before they are hatched." Sometimes her chickens "come home to roost." That means her actions or words cause trouble for her. However, my sister does not worry about what people say about her. Criticism falls off her "like water off a duck’s back."
ugly duckling: patito feo (mujer poco agraciada); grew up to be: se convirtió en; counts her chickens before they are hatched: hacer planes y gastar dinero anticipadamente (literal = contar los pollitos antes de que nazcan); the chickens come home to roost: pagar las consecuencias [cosechas lo que siembras; el que la hace, la paga; aquellos polvos traen estos lodos; etc.]; cause trouble for her: le acarrean serios problemas; however: sin embargo; does not worry about what: no se preocupa por lo que (la); criticism falls off her: las críticas le resbalan; like water off a duck's back: como quien oye llover, sin afectarla en lo más más mínimo; (literal = como agua que resbala por el lomo de un pato);

Politicians are sometimes considered "lame ducks" after losing an election -- they have little time left in office and not much power. Congress holds a "lame duck session" after an election -- important laws are not passed during this period.
lame ducks: especuladores e incapaces (literal = patos cojos o rengos); after losing: después de perder; they have little time left in office: les queda poco tiempo en sus cargos; not much power: sin demasiado poder; lame-duck session: sesión del Congreso norteamericano (luego de elecciones y antes del nuevo gobierno); holds: lleva a cabo; important laws are not passed: leyes importantes no son aprobadas.

This VOA Special English program
"Words and Their Stories" was written by Jill Moss. I’m Faith Lapidus.