What does Birds and Bees mean?
When a parent sits their child down for “the talk,” they’re not actually going to be discussing avian and apiary practices. Rather, this is an expression meaning that it’s time to have a conversation about where babies come from – in other words, an intimate relationship between a man and a woman.
The expression Birds and Bees likely comes from the idea of two creatures coming together to create new life – something humans have in common with animals. However, it can also be seen as a way of keeping the conversation light and easy-going, rather than getting too graphic or explicit, hence the metaphorical approach.
So, next time you hear someone say “Birds and Bees,” you’ll know exactly what they mean.
What's the origin of Birds and Bees?
There are countless ideas as to the origin of “Birds and Bees”, although none of them is confirmed by hard evidence.
One theory claims that the metaphor derived from the 1825 poem of Samuel Coleridge, titled “Work without Hope”. This is supported by the fact that following the 1820s, the use of the phrase “Birds and Bees” started rising significantly, appearing in print in various sources; books, novels, journals etc.
Another likely candidate for the origin of the expression is the 1909 publication of Dr. Emma Frances Angell Drake, titled “The Story of Life”, which contains a part where the author is explaining the process of making love to her children in vague terms, using examples from nature, including “Birds and Bees.”
A third possible source for the phrase lies in a modification of the 1928 Cole Porter song, titled “Let’s Do It, Let’s Fall in Love”. The original lyrics contained some racial slurs, like Chink and Japs, which were modified in the late 1940s to “Birds and Bees.”
This change, however, was most likely issued, due to the fact that the expression was already known by a wider audience.
Despite all theories, the exact origins of the phrase is not confirmed, thus remains a mystery.
Spread & Usage
How did Birds and Bees spread?
Today, “Birds and Bees” had become a veritable cliché, with everyone above a certain age knowing what it means. It still is the go-to method of explaining the amorous acts to children of many households, both in the United States, as well as Great Britain and the wider Anglosphere.
“Birds and Bees” have also gained a prominent spot in popular media, including literature, poetry, but more significantly, music, television and the big screen.
The original Cole Porter song had also spawned a plethora of covers and recreations, throughout the decades, with various artists creating an adaptation of the song.
“Birds and Bees” is also frequently referenced as an Easter egg for adults in children’s series, and cartoons.