I came across this poem titled "A hand in the bird" by Roald Dahl. What is the exact meaning of "bird" here? A likely interpretation from Wiktionary is

(Britain, US, slang) A girl or woman, especially one considered sexually attractive.

Okay. So the meaning is "A hand inside the pretty woman"? O_O
But isn't this too graphic a title for a poem placed in a children poetry section? Maybe I'm not getting something.. there is nothing in the poem about the vicar actually getting his hand inside. That would have moved the poem from any children's section of any website, I guess.

1 Answer 1


I believe the meaning that you have suggested is the correct one, although perhaps the word "in" in the title needn't be taken literally, considering that the title was chosen as an adaptation of the proverb "a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush".

According to Wikipedia: "Most of the stories contain slight sexual references. Due to slightly risqué material this book carries a warning that it is unsuitable for 'small people'."

A review by Booklist quoted here says: "Dahl's doggerel stew has the silly vulgarity beloved of younger teenagers whose jokes have left the bathroom (most of the time) for peeks behind the bedroom door and for sniggering fantasies about teachers, vicar's wives, and bare-bottomed dancing girls".

  • Thank you! I was sure that the meaning was not literal, but probably was too lazy to invert "bird" and "hand" and google. Russian has a similar proverb. I should have guessed. Still "a hand in the bird" feels a bit provocative, but that probably is covered by the "risque" warning. )) Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 7:24
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    Yes. Still, it is to interesting to speculate on whether it would still be published if it were written today. Generally speaking, sexual assault was treated less seriously in the 1980s than it is today. See also birthmoviesdeath.com/2011/08/22/… ("Which is a more offensive glorification of date rape: Revenge of the Nerds or Sixteen Candles? Date rape is a serious matter… today. But back in the 80s date rape wasn’t just a laughing matter, it was a legitimate tool to use against snobs").
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 7:41
  • "date rape ... was a legitimate tool to use against snobs" in the 80s ?
    – TimR
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 11:49
  • No, but it was arguably portrayed as such in the teen comedy movies of the era. They were comedies, of course, but the light treatment of the matter reflected the fact that these things weren't treated as seriously as they are today.
    – rjpond
    Commented Sep 6, 2017 at 12:51

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