The birds and the bees

The birds and the bees

"The birds and the bees" (sometimes expanded to "the birds, the bees and the butterflies" or "the birds, the bees, the flowers, and the trees") is an idiomatic expression which refers to courtship and sex, and is usually used in reference to teaching someone, often a young child, about sex and pregnancy. The phrase is evocative of the metaphors and euphemisms often used to avoid speaking openly and technically about the subject.

According to tradition, the birds and the bees is a metaphorical story sometimes told to children in an attempt to explain the mechanics and consequence of sexual intercourse through reference to easily observed natural events such as plant pollination.

Word sleuths William and Mary Morris ["Morris Dictionary of Word and Phrase Origins", by William and Mary Morris (1977). New York: Harper & Row. ISBN 9780060130589. Cited in [ Where does the phrase "The birds and the bees" come from - alt.usage.english | Google Groups.] ] hint that it may have been inspired by words like these from the poet Samuel Coleridge (1825): 'All nature seems at work ... The bees are stirring--birds are on the wing ... and I the while, the sole unbusy thing, not honey make, nor pair, nor build, nor sing.'" [ [ Work without Hope.] University of Virginia Library.]

Several sources give credit to Cole Porter for coining the phrase. [ [ Where did the phrase "the birds and the bees" come from? ] Yahoo.] One of the legendary musician's more famous songs was "Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love." The 1928 standard contains the lyrics: [ [ “Let's Do It, Let's Fall in Love” (1928) | WICN Public Radio.] New England's Jazz & Folk Station.]

quote|And that's why birds do it, bees do it
Even educated fleas do it
Let's do it, let's fall in love

Another use of this phrase comes from the work of John Burroughs, a naturalist who lived and worked in the Catskills Mountains. He wrote a small pamphlet called "Birds and Bees: Essays" [ [ Birds and Bees, Sharp Eyes, Etc, by John Burroughs.] Gutenberg.] in which he explained the workings of nature in a way that children could understand. However, birds and bees are dealt with in separate sections; nowhere are they mentioned together.


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  • (the) birds and the bees — the birds and the bees humorous phrase the facts about sex, when they are explained to children for the first time Thesaurus: sexual activityhyponym to have sexsynonym Main entry: bird * * …   Useful english dictionary

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  • (the) birds and the bees — humorous if you tell someone, especially a child, about the birds and the bees, you tell them about sex. My parents never actually sat down and told me about the birds and the bees …   New idioms dictionary

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  • birds and the bees — If a child is taught about the birds and the bees, they are taught about sex …   The small dictionary of idiomes

  • The Birds and the Bees (Jewel Akens song) — The Birds And The Bees was written by Barry Stuart and sung by Jewel Akens. It was a hit in 1965, reaching #2 on the Cash Box magazine chart and #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. In the UK the song reached #29 on the Record Retailer chart.Alma… …   Wikipedia

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