Nancy--a seasonal resident of Traverse City--wrote, "Since I am a snow bird (or is it one word: snowbird?), I began to wonder what the origin of that term is."
snowbird (1680) was any species of bird that showed up in the winter when there
was snow on the ground. Then it did a complete reversal.
It began to be
used as military slang around 1905. It was used to describe men who enlisted to
get food and clothing in the winter months, then deserted when warm weather
Then it shifted
to an industrial sense in the early 1920s--namely, when the building industry
slowed to a crawl in the North during the winter months, carpenters and other
workers who went south to find work were described as snowbirds.
Finally, it was
used to describe retired folks who seasonally moved south to avoid the rigors
of cold weather. These days, that’s the standard use, though sometimes it
refers to coke or heroin addicts.
Listen to Mike’s program in real
time every Tuesday morning, 9:10 - 10:00 a.m. EST, by going to wtcmradio.com
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also find about a month’s worth of podcasts there under The Ron Jolly Show.