Cuckoos May Be Dim, But They Are Strategic

And here's an interesting twist to this story. Some folks must have figured that out a long time ago. One of the definitions in my dictionary says a cuckoo is "an idiot, a fool." Payne thinks that definition probably dates back to the early days of the British empire.

"There was big concern about who was the lawful offspring of the king," he says. "They had wars about that sort of thing. It was a matter of life or death to towns to know if their claimant to the throne was the right one or not. "

In other words, was the king really the father, or had an interloper slipped into the queen's bed, thus making the king a "cuckold?"

"Cuckoo" thus became a taunt, because any man who would let his wife lay with another must surely be a fool.

It may be a bum rap, though, for a bird that has figured out how to keep its family tree alive, even if its elevator doesn't go all the way to the top.

Lee Dye's column appears weekly on A former science writer for the Los Angeles Times, he now lives in Juneau, Alaska.

  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
You are using an outdated version of Internet Explorer. Please click here to upgrade your browser in order to comment.
blog comments powered by Disqus
You Might Also Like...
See It, Share It
PHOTO: Jodie Foster and Alexandra Hedison attend the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts Inaugural Gala presented by Salvatore Ferragamo at the Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts, Oct. 17, 2013, in Beverly Hills, Calif.
Stefanie Keenan/Wallis Annenberg Center for the Performing Arts/Getty Images for Wallis Annenber
PHOTO: Apple CEO Steve Jobs delivers the keynote address at the 2011 Apple World Wide Developers Conference at the Moscone Center in this June 6, 2011, file photo.
Justin Sullivan/Getty Images