12 August 2013

Newspaper Syntactical and Ornithological Display

Editor Star — I have observed of late in sundry journals in their reference to the autumnal return of the bobolinks such an expression as this: "Reedbirds and ortolans." I have seen this expression in papers that are apt to exercise a sort of censorship and critical correctorship over articles contributed to their columns.

Now as to the nomenclature of the birds mentioned in the foregoing. In the north they are called bobolinks, sometimes, in localities, however, they are named from the peculiar Dolly Varden or calico colored backs of the males, skunk-blackbirds. Leaving their summer haunts early in autumn, wending their way south, they are called usually in the middle or more northern of the southern states, reedbirds. In the Carolinas and George they become the rice-birds, or as they are locally called, the ortolans. In Cuba and Jamaica they are known as "butter birds." The term ortolan is a corruption of ortulan from ("emberuza") "hortulana," their scientific designation. The ortolan or ortulan is a bird belonging more especially to Europe than this country. However, we may name our birds to suit ourselves and taking their name ortulan, appropriate it to our own use. The words "reedbirds and ortolans" is equivalent to saying the reedbirds and reedbirds, or bobolinks and bobolinks, or ortolans and ortolans, & c. As the old darkie said, it is "tau-tauc-i-logy" and ridiculously so at that.

Plain Common Sense.

September 12, 1872. Washington D.C. Evening Star 40(6081): 1.


In your issue of the 12th inst. "Plain Common Sense" undertakes to correct "sundry journals" that are in the habit of speaking of "Reed-birds and Ortolans," and endeavors to show that they are one and the same bird. If "Plain Common Sense" will look in Webster's Dictionary, and any work on Ornithology will tell him the same, he will find "Bobolink" (Dolichony ovizyvoras); the rice-bird, rice bunting, or reed birds." "Ortolan; a singing bird," "Emberiza hortulana," about the size of a lark, with black wings. It is found in Europe, and is esteemed delicious food. The American species is the American Rail, Rallus or (Porzana) Carolineusis—" Rail a bird of the genus Rallus (or Porzana) Carolinensis of a general brown color above, and ashy blue with white markings below, found in the United States.

Then comes "Reed-bird the same as the Rice-bird of the United States. The bobolink of the north is the Reed-bird of the middle states and the rice bird of the southern states. The bird called in this vicinity the Ortolan, is the Rail (Rallus Carolinus). If "Plain Common Sense" will go to our marshes, east or west of the city, most any morning or evening about this time, he can find among the sportsmen birds enough to show him the difference between an Ortolan and a Reed-bird.


September 14, 1872. Washington D.C. Evening Star 40(6083): 4.

More Upon the Ortolan Question.

Editor Star — In your issue of yesterday, "Plain Common Sense" undertakes to discourse learnedly, the bird question. This ornithologist tells us that a reed-bird is an ortolan, and an ortolan is a reed-bird; or, in other words, that there is no distinction between them. It will be quite evident to the sportsmen of this community, especially those fond of marsh gunning, that this gent has never "covered" many birds in this latitude. There is as much distinction between a reed-bird or rice-bird (Amandina oryzivora) and what we call an ortolan as there is between the sparrow and the snipe. We acknowledge hat the fat, lazy birds, which rises from the marsh, flies sluggishly a short distance, drops suddenly, and then secretes itself so effectually in the wild oats as often to preclude the possibility of finding it, is not the ortolan, (Emberiza hortulana). Our ortolan, or rail, as it is sometimes called, is very much larger than the reed or rice-bird, and of different flesh and plumage. It is positively asserted by those who have watched its habits that it is not migratory; and its slow flight seems to warrant the assumption. Hence the mystery of its disappearance with the appearance of frost. If "Plain Common Sense" will examine one of these birds and give us its proper ornithological term, he will settle a question which has been mooted in the region since our boyhood, and can sign himself "Plain Uncommon Sense."

Old Man.

September 14, 1872. Washington D.C. Evening Star 40(6083): 4.