Residence: Los Angeles, CA
Date of Performance/Collection: 4/8/16
Primary Language: English
Other Language(s): Spanish
“Don’t pout or a bird will land on that lip!”
“It’s kind of ridiculous. Like, of course a bird isn’t going to land on my lip. But, like, kids are also crazy and would probably believe everything. When I started hearing this phrase so much it bothered me, but now as I’m older, I can see why my grandma might’ve said it. She is such a sweet old lady. Like all the time, all the time, she would tell me all of these little sayings and stuff. But yeah, no, I’m pretty sure half of them were to just behave better and keep still.”
“Originally this was taught to me by my grandmother to stop me from pouting as a kid. Now I find myself teaching this to the kids I babysit.”
This piece was definitely one of the more odd ones that I came across. Why is a bird landing on the lip? Is that a bad thing? What kind of bird could even land on a lip? I mean, in a sense, I get it. You don’t want some bird smacking you in the face. It just wasn’t as clear to me as many of the other proverbs and warnings and sayings that I had heard over the years.
So, I decided to do some research. It turns out, the more popular version of this phrase is “Don’t stick your lip out or a bird might poop on it!” This was much more clear to me; bird poop is something that’s much more familiar than a bird actually landing on me. It also could go hand in hand with a kid acting like they are ‘full of shit’ when they are pouting.
The participant’s grandmother was described to me as a very sweet, kind, old lady. The participant also comes from a somewhat religious family. This all said, it could be that the grandmother thought the original saying was too crude for her grandchildren, so she changed it a little bit. Clearly, though, if the informant can remember it after all of these years, it must have been pretty effective.
The variation of this piece of folklore is quite different, but it doesn’t change the true meaning of the proverbial phrase, much like most variations of proverbs. Still, you can tie back its origins to the more popular version – or perhaps the more popular version arose from this one. In any case, like many proverbs were designed to do, it will make kids behave.