ⓘ Salting a birds tail is a legendary superstition of Europe and America, and an English language idiom. The superstition is that sprinkling salt on a birds tail ..

                                     

ⓘ Salting a birds tail

Salting a birds tail is a legendary superstition of Europe and America, and an English language idiom. The superstition is that sprinkling salt on a birds tail will render the bird temporarily unable to fly, enabling its capture.

The nursery rhyme Simple Simon, which dates to at least the 17th century and possibly earlier, includes the verse

He went to catch a dicky bird, And thought he could not fail, Because he had a little salt, To put upon its tail.

The belief itself is documented to the 16th century, and may be older. Found in European countries such as Sweden, it also crossed the ocean to North America. It is generally told to children, and not commonly believed anymore by adults.

Salting of a birds tail has been used by analogy as an idiom for immobilization of persons since at least the 19th century, by writers such as Walter Scott, Robert Burns, John Phillips, and others.

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