Thursday, November 14, 2013


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."

The original 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 came around.

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.

Available from McFarland & Co.: Word Parts Dictionary, 2nd edition

Nook edition

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