A Bee’s Idiom

Musingly he lit a cigarette. Through the open window a bee droned in on the blue air of evening. Closing his eyes he fell to considering whether the bee of one country would understand the remarks of that of another. The effect of the soil of a nation, had it consequences upon its flora? Were plants influenced at their roots? People sometimes spoke (and especially ladies) of the language of flowers . . . the pollen therefore of an English rose would probably vary, not inconsiderably, from that of a French, and a bee born and bred at home . . .would be at a loss to understand (it clearly followed) the conversation of one born and bred, here, abroad. A bee’s idiom varied then, as did man’s! And he wondered, this being proved the case, where the best bees’ accents were generally acquired.

Ronald Firbank, The Flower Beneath The Foot (1923)

1 Responses to “A Bee’s Idiom”


  • Ornithological Pedantry….dunno about bees, but songbirds have different national accents or idioms. On the other hand, Tickell’s Thrush, from North India and Pakistan, which is a distinct species, but superficially like our Song Thrush (smaller, paler, different spots)….(Tickell’s that is)….well, Tickell’s Thrush has a song which is a dead ringer for a Song Thrush song but a bit weedier. So there must be DNA for bird songs more enduring than DNA for size and spottiness. It’s as if a Gibbon sang Mozart. Or maybe it isn’t.

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