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  1. #1
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    Smile a little bird told me

    the explanation of the idiom extacted from the Bible. 'A bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter.' i do not understand the grammer in the sentence. that + which ... what is the structure? who can explain it ? thanks

  2. #2
    arij98 is offline Junior Member
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    Re: a little bird told me

    Althought I have never read a bible, I can say that it is a relative clause but the subject has been omitted:
    "that" can refer to a heavenly creature or an angel or maybe another bird
    so "which hath wings" becomes a relative clause beginnig by "which" and that describe or modify "that"
    it's like saying :He who has enough power, shall win.
    But I know that the idiom "a little bird told me" is used when you want to hide the name of the person who gave you an information or a secret.
    I hope that this will help you.

  3. #3
    thod00 is offline Member
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    Re: a little bird told me

    As another example, consider someone bidding at an auction, "He who bids highest wins". The criteria for selecting the unspecified person, 'he', is defined by the condition.

    We know nothing about the thing in your example. so we say 'that'. You may think, if it is "he who", then it should be "that what hath wings", but this would be a mistake, its 'which'.

    Biblical text should be treated with caution. Much of it is ancient when different grammar rules applied.

  4. #4
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    Re: a little bird told me

    The text 'a little bird told me' doesn't appear in any version of the Bible. The root source of this expression is probably biblical though, from Ecclesiastes 10-20 (King James Version):
    "Curse not the king, no not in thy thought; and curse not the rich in thy bedchamber: for a bird of the air shall carry the voice, and that which hath wings shall tell the matter."
    Various authors over the centuries, including Shakespeare, have made reference to birds, feathered or otherwise, giving messages. The first that comes close to our current version of this phrase is Frederick Marryat, in Peter Simple, 1833:
    "A little bird has whispered a secret to me."

    http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/a-little-bird-told-me.html

    A source one cannot or will not identify gave this information, as in How did you learn they were getting a divorce?--Oh, a little bird told me. Versions of this idiom date from ancient times and appear in numerous proverb collections.


    http://www.answers.com/topic/little-bird-told-one-a








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