Submitted by janine on December 18, 2007

Sings like a canary

Where does that phrase come from and what does it mean?

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dictionary.com says that a canary is "someone acting as an informer or decoy for the police". Maybe "he sang like a canary" means that "he ratted somebody out".

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Maggie kate, I'm afraid the truth is far more grim than you realize. Carbon monoxide is colorless and odorless, even to canaries. They are small, frail creatures compared to us humans, far more susceptible to its effects. It wasn't the canaries' chirping that warned the miners. It was the canaries' keeling over dead that warned them.

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In reference to an informer: "loudly and at length." :-)

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To "Sing like a canary" is probably an exact translation from Polish, which means to sing very well.

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Actually, both Javid Jamae and Ollie might be right because the translated sentence has both meanings.

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it also might have something to do with the use of canaries in coal mines. they can sense when the carbon monoxide was present, so their chirping would signal the miners to get to some fresh air.

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