Saturday, October 6, 2012
IN THE CATBIRD SEAT
My client nicknamed a neighbor's granddaughter "Catbird" the first time he saw her in the hospital after she was born. Her real name is Ahliza Mary Jane Johnson! Today, Ahliza was visiting and I asked if she'd ever seen a catbird. She said that she hadn't even seen a picture of a catbird; I showed her numerous pictures of catbirds on Google, including ones with cat faces morphed into the bodies of birds. Ahliza, who is nine years old, said she'd like to have a catbird picture on her screen saver. I told her she could write about catbirds for school or do a show-and-tell.
Later, Ahliza was demonstrating some cheerleading moves and I said, "Well, you're in the catbird seat now!" Of course, I wasn't surprised that the little girl had never heard the saying, but I assumed that my client, who is 89 years old, would know it. My client had never heard the saying, although Ahliza's grandfather knew the phrase. Perhaps it's because the grandfather and I are close in age!
I told Ahliza, "Being a catbird means you're above everyone!" (See the accompanying article regarding the origin of the phrase.)
I knew James Thurber's short story The Catbird Seat as I have The Thurber Carnival (which contains the short story), and I had read it years ago, but I was delighted to be able to re-read it on the internet.
In researching about catbirds, I was pleased to learn that the term "sitting pretty" also came about because of catbirds, because they ARE sitting pretty high in the trees! It was also very interesting to hear the sounds made by catbirds (there are several examples on You Tube) because that's how they were named catbirds because of the unique "mewing" sounds made by catbirds.
CLICK HERE to read the origin of the phrase, In The Catbird Seat.