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"It never crossed my mind that if I'm walking from A to B anything could happen in the middle. If I got caught [with the gun] I would have said no comment and took the bird with me." GUARDIAN

What does it mean?

  • Take the blame?
  • Keep a secret?
  • ...

And why bird?

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Another interesting question is: why took rather than taken? –  Armen Ծիրունյան Feb 20 '12 at 15:58
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Bird is slang for time spent in prison, but I'm struggling to see how that fact is relevant. The bird is slang for one's girlfriend (e.g. "who's on the phone?" "It's the bird."), but again I can't fit that into what she's saying since she's talking about helping her boyfriend. I guess it could be related to the phrase "a little bird told me". I'm not sure though, I've not heard it used in this way before. –  Matt Эллен Feb 20 '12 at 16:03
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@Mat Ellen: I think that although it doesn't completely fit, bird is used here in the sense of girl. –  Robusto Feb 20 '12 at 16:10
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1 Answer

up vote 10 down vote accepted

In British English, I've heard "bird" used to mean a jail term. In this particular context, the following would make sense:

"If I got caught [with the gun] I would have said no comment and took the bird"

That is to say, she wouldn't have said anything about why she was carrying the gun, or on whose behalf: she'd have simply gone to prison and served the mandatory sentence that goes with carrying an unlicensed firearm.

However,

I would have said no comment and took the bird with me

does not make sense. It could be that the journalist (or their editor) didn't understand what the interviewee was saying, and has, during transcription or editing, tried to shoehorn in the "with me" in order to make it parse in their mind. Or, the interviewee said it, either as a particular idiomatic usage, or just having lost track of the sentence and added something incorrect on at the end.

And thanks to Matt Эллен for the prompt that "with me?" is used as a shorter form of "are you with me?", at the end of a sentence, to mean: "do you understand?":

I would have said no comment and took the bird; [are you] with me?

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Yes, that's my interpretation too. –  slim Feb 20 '12 at 16:09
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Ah! It could well be. If the interviewer missed out a comma and a question mark: "I would have said 'no comment' and took the bird, with me?" where with me? means do you understand?. –  Matt Эллен Feb 20 '12 at 16:22
    
There's also the potential that the interviewee meant that they 'would have said no comment and taken the [jail time] in their stride'. –  Christopher Woods Feb 20 '12 at 18:25
    
@Matt Эллен: Agreed it could be a simple transcription error (lost comma). Alternatively, it could be clumsy phrasing - looking at the article I get the impression it's a fairly inarticulate speaker making an unsuccessful attempt to conceal this. So possibly she mis-phrased where someone else might have said "and took the bird [upon] myself" (i.e. - didn't speak up in a way that would have sent someone else to prison rather than her). Perhaps influenced by the fact that people often say "I took the burden upon myself". –  FumbleFingers Feb 20 '12 at 18:28
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