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Old August 22, 2010, 05:20 PM
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Eat crow

Random House Unabridged definition:
eat crow, Informal. to be forced to admit to having made a mistake, as by retracting an emphatic statement; suffer humiliation: His prediction was completely wrong, and he had to eat crow.

I knew this story about how the expression "eating crow" came about and I found it in several places in the net. One of them is the following,
http://www.wordwizard.com/phpbb3/vie...php?f=5&t=6447

(You can see the version there, but here I include it as well.)

Whether the full history is true or an invention, I don't go into it, but I thought it was witty and interesting to share with forum members. (Got inspired with some of the the dialogue between the American and British 'foreros'...)

EAT CROW: During an armistice toward the end of the War of 1812, an American soldier out hunting crossed the Niagara River past British lines in search of larger game. Finding no better game, he shot a crow, but a British officer heard the shot, resolved to punish the intruder and came upon him just as he was reloading his gun and surprised him. The Britisher tricked the Yankee out of the rifle, he gained control of the American’s gun by praising his marksmanship and asking to see his weapon, with which he shot so well. He then told the American he was guilty of trespass turned the gun on the American, demanding that he take a bite out of the crow he had shot as a punishment for violating British territory. The American complied, but when the officer returned his weapon and told him to leave, he covered the Englishman and forced him to eat the rest of the crow. That is the origin of to 'eat crow', “to be forced to do something extremely disagreeable,” as related in an 1888 issue of the ‘Atlantic Constitution’ [but the meaning of the expression today, is to be compelled to back down and confess/admit that you were wrong, which is of course distasteful and humiliating, but which is more than just having to do something disagreeable – it involves eating ‘humble pie’]. Although ‘to eat crow’ is possibly a much older expression, the saying first appeared in print in 1877 and the story may well be true—nothing better has been suggested. The concept behind ‘to eat crow’ is that crows are not good eating [all accounts I’ve seen imply it was eaten raw – is there any uncooked bird that is good eating?], but the flesh of young ones was once esteemed and I have it on the authority of the Remington Arms Co. that even old crows aren’t so bad if you simply “skin the bird, salt and cut it into pieces, parboil till tender and then fry with butter and onions.” I’ll eat crow if someone proves the recipe isn’t authentic.

“The incident became known, the story says, because the British officer went next day to the American commander and demanded that the soldier be punished for violating an armistice, telling his own version of the affair. When the soldier was brought in, the American captain asked if he had ever seen the Englishman before. After several attempts to speak, the stuttering Yankee finally had the wits to say, “W-w-why y-yes, Captin’, I d-d-dined with him y-y-yesterday.”

(Hey, by the by, is there any similar Spaniard/Royalists-'libertadores' stories or anecdotes... from the days of Bolívar... SanMartín... and those brave 'freedom fighters'?)
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Old August 22, 2010, 07:19 PM
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Fantastic! I love this!! And, by the way, I grew up very close to the Niagara River and can't imagine "crossing it" unless he was in a boat!!

So, the question about actually eating crow. Isn't a crow one of those birds that feasts on carrion?? I can't imagine that it would be "okay" to eat raw crow... I would think there would be all sorts of opportunities for acquiring nasty germs from doing such a thing....
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Old August 22, 2010, 07:42 PM
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Wow... I didn't know they ate carrion, but they do...

American Crows are familiar over much of the continent: large, intelligent, all-black birds with hoarse, cawing voices. They are common sights in treetops, fields, and roadsides, and in habitats ranging from open woods and empty beaches to town centers. They usually feed on the ground and eat almost anything – typically earthworms, insects and other small animals, seeds, and fruit but also garbage, carrion, and chicks they rob from nests. Their flight style is unique, a patient, methodical flapping that is rarely broken up with glides. Crows are rarely found alone.

No, doesn't sound very hygienic...

And I don't know if the 'crossing' of the Niagara is just one of these exaggerations to make the guy look like superman... (I guess, even with a boat you have to know what you are doing...)
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Old August 22, 2010, 07:59 PM
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As you can imagine, even the calm-looking portions of the Niagara River have strong under-tow... I've skied on it ... it's safe if you're careful....

I took this photo on a boat in the middle of the Niagara a couple of weeks ago. It's kind of wide....

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Old August 23, 2010, 02:11 AM
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Unsurprisingly, although I would have guessed what it meant, the expression is unkown in BrE. 'eat crow' occurs 21 times in COCA (=AmE), but not at all in BNC (=BrE).
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Old August 23, 2010, 02:19 AM
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@Perikles, Wow, that is interesting to me... I guess in England is it more used "eat humble pie" perhaps?
@Lou Ann, Nice picture... the closest I have ever been to the Niagara falls was when I went to Toronto in 94 I think...
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Last edited by JPablo; August 23, 2010 at 02:21 AM.
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Old August 23, 2010, 02:20 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JPablo View Post
Wow, that is interesting to me... I guess in England is it more used "eat humble pie" perhaps?
That is the usual expression. I like the crow thing as a metaphor, because crow must be disgusting to eat.
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Old August 23, 2010, 02:22 AM
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No kidding!
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Old August 23, 2010, 05:18 AM
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La frase "comer los cuervos" tiene muy diferente significado para muchos países y naciones europeos. Cuervos como un producto de alimentación era común durante las hambrunas y las guerras como el ultimo recurso. Esto ha sido documentado por las fuentes históricas.

Es posible que en el principio "eat crows" tomara el mismo significado triste en inglés.
---
"Eating crows" has very different historic meaning in many European nations and countries. Crow eating was a common sight during the famines and at war times as the last resort. These are documented in historic annals.

It could be that originally BrE had the same sad meaning.
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Old August 23, 2010, 06:53 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JPablo View Post
@Perikles, Wow, that is interesting to me... I guess in England is it more used "eat humble pie" perhaps?
@Lou Ann, Nice picture... the closest I have ever been to the Niagara falls was when I went to Toronto in 94 I think...
Quote:
Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
That is the usual expression. I like the crow thing as a metaphor, because crow must be disgusting to eat.
If I contemplate it, though, I would have to say that the use of "eat humble pie" is strong, but "eat crow" is even stronger.....

Toronto is quite close to the Falls... The river is a bit longer than people realize, connecting Lake Erie to Lake Ontario. There is a large island in the river (Grand Island) with about 18,000 people living there. I have friends there who have a small boat and we go for rides all the time...
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