---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Thu, Sep 1, 2011 at 6:37 PM
Subject: A Canary In A Coal Mine
Posted by Welcome at 6:37 PM on THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 01, 2011
English Idioms and Idiomatic Expressions
'Get Fuzzy' Comic Strip:
Cat: Well, I told you I would do it and here it is, my movie... read it and weep.
Man: I'm thinking more... "read it and sleep". (reading the title out loud) "Terror Stinks: The Monkey In The Sock Drawer".
Cat: What do you think?
Man: Let's just say, as a first Cat-Writer/Director/Producer, you're something of a canary in a coal mine.
Cat: Oh yeah? Well... you're an ostrich in a can factory! ... Gimme my script!
What Does It Mean to be a "Canary in a Coal Mine"?
Life for an actual canary in a coal mine could be described in three words ® short but meaningful. Early coal mines did not feature ventilation systems, so miners would routinely bring a caged canary into new coal seams. Canaries are especially sensitive to methane and carbon monoxide, which made them ideal for detecting any dangerous gas build-ups. As long as the bird kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A dead canary signaled an immediate evacuation.
Even as gas detection technology improved, some mining companies still relied on the "canary in a coal mine" method well into the 20th century. Other animals were used occasionally, but only the canary had the ability to detect small concentrations of gas and react instinctively.
Today, the practice of using a bird to test the air supply has become part of coal mining lore, but the ideology behind it has become a popular expression. The phrase living like a canary in a coal mine often refers to serving as a warning to others. The actual canary had little control over its fate, but it continued to sing anyway. In one sense, living this way indicates a willingness to experience life's dangers without compromise.
In another sense, when a person is described as a canary in a coal mine, it could mean that (like the canary) they are being unwittingly used in someone else's bad agenda without their knowledge. Like the first person to try to walk across a rickety rope bridge, or across a mine field.
Further reading on English Idioms and Idiomati