Four Colly Birds – WTH??

R is for REBEL COVER-FINAL Today I have a very special New Friend Megan Mulry visiting. 

Megan started following me on Twitter first (who knows why??), something I discovered when I began chatting with her via mutual friends. We’ve since discovered a reciprocal love for the other’s books (which does not always happen, sadly) along with similar sensibilities. She’s become a bright spot in my online world and one of the wonderful developments 2013 brought.

AND she’s giving away an ARC of her new bestseller, which lesser mortals won’t lay paws on until February, so fire up your commenting engines people!!


Hi Jeffe!

 I’m so excited you asked me to be a part of your Twelve Days of Christmas blog! It didn’t take me long to choose my day, because what the hell is a colly bird anyway? I needed to know!

 As usual, I’m all hung up on words. When you first posted about this blog idea, the four birds were listed as ‘colly’ birds and I was all, “What the—?” When you posted the next time, it said “calling” birds and I thought, “Ah. That’s more like it, right?”


 You kindly sent me this link explaining the long-standing debate. It’s colly birds. Full stop. Which of course meant I had to venture over to Samuel Johnson’s dictionary to verify (no help whatsoever; ‘collie’ and ‘colly’ were dogs), then to the OED to get some serious fore-word-play on:


So the blackbird theory stands up. But coal-dust and soot got me thinking, because (*fist pump*) that is also the origin of one of our mutual favorites: smut.

The thing I love about words is: they don’t just tell the story, they are the story. Take smut, for example (yes please!). The history of the word smut is delightfully linked with all that dirty sooty goodness too:


 So we’ve got the ‘colly’ part all set: those birds were really four sexy little tarts.

 Wait! Birds, you say? Well, now I’ve got Michael Caine in Alfie and Mike Myers in Austin Powers yammering on about sexy birds. But was it a 60s thing? Referring to women as chicks and birds? Back to the salt mines I went:


That’s Samuel Johnson right there. That’s like…old (first published 1755). And not even a mention of the “feathered tribe.” And here is a subsequent definition from OED:


*tries and fails avoid bird/bride/bryd/burd rabbithole…twenty minutes later…*

So, right! Where was I? Oh, yes. Basically, I rest my case. It’s all right there in black and white. Those four colly birds were a bunch of dirty whores out for a good time with the leaping lords. Four birds…ten lords…I like the odds.

Next year, I’ll be researching the French Hens (arrogant bitches).

Oh, and since this should probably have something to do with my upcoming book (or something) I am giving away a super-top-secret advance reader copy of my February release, R IS FOR REBEL, to a random commenter. Why? Because the heroine, Abigail Heyworth, is one of my all-time favorite colly birds: she likes her sex smutty and to keep her hero…leaping. To win a copy, please let me know: who are your favorite colly-bird, sex-loving heroines?

 Happy caroling everyone!

PS And just for kicks, here’s a portrait of the aforementioned Samuel Johnson,painted by Joshua Reynolds, which I’m attaching because he’s so totally reading smut, right? No question. How do I know? Because he looks exactly like I do when I’m reading Jeffe’s books and tell my husband, “This is research, damn it!”




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