For the Birds, My Dear

Posted in Events, Figuratively Speaking at 8:04 am by Marion


In keeping with the holiday spirit that has somehow afflicted Fiction Dailyland, today we’re looking at that beloved song, The Twelve Days of Christmas.


Are we going to delight in the sentiment of the moment?

Of course not!! In a special holiday edition of Figuratively Speaking, we’re going to eviscerate common mistakes made in the singing of this otherwise masterful song; naturally, we’re going to provide the correct versions.

On the first day of Christmas my true love sent to me.

Note that in the traditional, and authoritative, English version, the lover sends and does not give these things.

A partridge in a pear tree.

Some suggest that this partridge is in fact a perdix, which is a French word for the bird. Its genus is also perdix.

On the second day of Christmas, my true love sent to me two turtle doves … and on the third, three French hens.

The pattern here reflects the royal tastes in England, which would have been for things French … and for objects of the hunt or leisure pursuits, such as game birds.

Now to the next day .. Let out the dogs, because rarely is this line sung correctly:

On the fourth day of Christmas, my true love sent to me four colly birds …

Yes, these are colly birds, and not calling birds.

Colly birds are a European blackbird, and are so named because their color resembles coal … from collier and colliery, which derive from coal.

On the fifth day we have five gold rings … and not golden, no matter how long the note is held.

On the six day, my true loves sends me six geese a laying.

And those types of birds indeed love to lay eggs … as I’ve learned personally … thanks to the ducks who live next door. Remarkably friendly, they are, and they’re always laying eggs in our backyard, in our shed, under our azaleas, in my daylily garden …

TOMORROW: The rest of Christmas, as told only by Fiction Daily.


  1. Gene-o said,

    December 23, 2008 at 11:34 am

    “Colly” birds? No way! On Christmas morn, I’m going to insist that my family gather ’round the piano and sing this most annoying of all holiday songs (at least through the fourth day) just so i can show off my superior knowledge of “colly birds.” Thanks, Fiction Daily, for making me look smart and smug.


  2. Marion said,

    December 23, 2008 at 2:01 pm

    Indeed, that is the true, and highest, purpose of Fiction Daily: to allow thinkers like us to feel smug and superior to the rest of the world, who goes about its business happily unaware of grave word blunders taking place every minute of the day.