Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Bird Augury Top Trumps

Question: If a lone magpie portends sorrow, and the crow is the harbinger of doom, which one would win in a fight?

Note: This is NOT a rhetorical question. This morning I saw a magpie and a crow having a fight in a tree, and I've spent the whole rest of the day wondering which one portended more bad luck for the other, and whether any of it would rub off on me.

Sometimes this is as much intellectual engagement as I can handle in one day.


ALSO: What is the infinitive form of 'harbinger'? To harbinge? To harbing? Oh, the entire day is shot through with uncertainty.

27 comments:

ScroobiousScrivener said...

This is easy. Crow is definitely going to beat magpie, on account of (1) being a bigger, meaner bird, and (2) doom being totally bigger and meaner than sorrow. Luckily, as they were engaged in one-on-one bird battle action, it can clearly be seen that the omen is DOOM TO SORROW! Or if you prefer, let there be light! Ah, happy day.

Vicus Scurra said...

Was it an African or a European crow?

Tim Footman said...

Agree with Scroob.

Magpie: I bring sorrow. I'm going to stomp on your toys, give you a Chinese burn and force you to have it off with Paul Daniels.

Crow: Yeah, well I do doom. I'm gonna rip your head off.

Magpie: Oh, tits.

patroclus said...

Scroobious: I think you are right. Another theory is that perhaps later the crow regrets his actions, a bit like Charlemagne's knights in the Song of Roland, and feels sorrow over what he has done, a sorrow clearly visited upon him by the vanquished magpie.

Vicus: It was a Cornish crow.

Tim: There were no tits involved.

QE said...

Chambers seems to suggest (with 'harbingered, harbingering') that the infinitive is 'to harbinger'.

miss-cellany said...

"A crow has snatched half a million lire (NZ$540) from a Sicilian who was withdrawing money from an automated teller machine, but police are on the bird's trail. Bank staff confirmed the man's story. Police think the bird was trained to steal. A man with a pet crow was seen earlier. - DPA

Source: The Dominion Friday 26 January 2001"

Perhaps they were having a fight about money?

patroclus said...

QE: Thank you for that - although now I am thinking that surely the noun should be 'harbingerer'.

Miss-Cellany: Hm, I can see it now, the crow trained to steal paper notes, the magpie trained to steal coins. The magpie may have wanted into some big-league green folding stuff action. No doubt a fox was down below, waiting for the ideal moment to entreat both birds to sing their beautiful song.

Simes said...

Crow beats magpie easily but later, thinking back, is sad to have done it.

chuffy! said...

Malcolm MacDowell has the answer. Also possibly Ice T.

Annie said...

What is the rhyme you say when you see a single magpie? I think they follow me around. Bastards.

I always thought harbinger was a noun.

Rosie said...

what Annie said, on both counts.

Jayne said...

A crow beat up my cat once. I'm just saying...

Fat Roland said...

Did someone mention the Song of Roland?

patroclus said...

Simes: Yes, the crow was much bigger than the magpie, and was probably duly chastised by Mummy and Daddy Crow for not picking on someone his own size. Although personally I think the magpie started it.

Chuffy!: I am too scared to look at that video.

Annie/Rosie: It goes 'one for sorrow, two for joy, three for a girl, four for a boy, five for silver, six for gold, seven for a secret never to be told'. Of course you get lured into the whole scenario by the promises of boys and silver and secrets, but the sorry truth is YOU ONLY EVER SEE ONE MAGPIE.

(Long term readers of this blog, if there are any, will have realised I have quite a hang-up about the whole magpie thing).

Jayne: That sounds like some pretty effective harbingering. Your poor cat. Did he/she recover? More to the point, did he/she take revenge?

FR: I frequently mention the Song of Roland, in a futile attempt to appear erudite. The same goes for Robbe-Grillet, and to a lesser extent, Aristophanes. If you had a song, what would it be?

Albert said...

Just as well it wasn't a swan behind some net curtains. *shudder*

Sylvia said...

not just your cat, Jayne - in June 2006 I was attacked by a crow because I accidently got too close to its nest! Bugger chased me out of the park. Part of me thought " Good grief, get a grip, it's a bird" and the other part of me thought "Arrgh - it's that Hitchcock film all over again!"
Crows have also been picking out the lovely new cygnets on the Common. They are evil, I tell you.

At least Magpies keep their distance.

Sean McManus said...

Oh no! I hope you haven't started verbising nouns. That's a slippery slope.

Marsha said...

According to my mother, when you see only one magpie, you're supposed to greet it respectfully to ward off the sorrow it portends. I've never heard anyone else say this, but it looks like she might have her finger on the folkloric pulse after all:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/European_Magpie#Magpie_in_culture

Personally, I'm a bit worried about the bit where it says that, in Scotland, a magpie outside your window fortells a death - we've got loads of the bastards in our back garden!

mary said...

Last week I saw a crow having a ferocious battle with a lady mallard which eventually flew away. The crow then stole all her eggs and ate them!

patroclus said...

Albert: Why, what would that signify?

Sylvia: I sense a body of evidence mounting regaring the general evilness of crows.

Sean: A slope I am clearly slipperysloping.

Marsha: Crikey, yes, that's a bit harsh. But perhaps it just means 'a death somewhere', rather than 'a death of someone known to you'. These magpie augury things are always irritatingly scant on detail.

Mary: That's a very sad story. More evidence in support of the general evilness of crows. I quite liked crows up until now.

thedonething said...

As it happens, the same battle is ongoing in our garden.

In my case, the old 'two for joy' adage seems to apply, because the magpies are doing rather well at fending off the crow, using a dazzling array of aerobatic spoil tactics.

In other news, they are also dicking on the pigeons and shitting on my deck

Dave said...

News: Pictish runes seen in Orkneys, and photographed. Will be posted at my place next week probably. I expect an interpretation of them.

patroclus said...

TDT: This is great, it's like open-source wildlife reporting. Feather-footed through the plashy fen, etc.

Dave: Welcome back! I look forward to it very much - are they actual Norse runes or Pictish ogam inscriptions, or both?

Dave said...

I'm rather hoping you'll be able to tell me that.

Jayne said...

Revenge? My fat, old, lazy cat? No - he couldn't be bothered... plus he's been beaten up by far less ferocious things than a crow (got his head stuck in a polystyrene cup once which seemed to bother him a lot more).

cello said...

Any thoughts on four and twenty blackbirds when baked in a pie? Bad for the blackbirds or the pie-eater?

And Marsha, I was taught to say "Good morning Mr Magpie", if I saw a solitary one, which seems to tie in with your story. Absurd.

Oli said...

Ah, but crows are harbingers of doom as they are meant to turn up before big battles. Thinking here being that they eat carrion, and battles provide a lot of that. Hence, crows are lazy and depend on others to do their fighting for them. Magpie would have him.