For the Birds Radio Program: Blue Jays in American Folklore and Jaybelliine Eye Cosmetics
Blue Jays have figured prominently in American folklore since time immemorial. Native peoples carried on conversations with jays. In the plantation South, slaves developed a whole set of folklore around the jaybird, which they called the bird of Satan. They claimed that it was impossible to see a Blue Jay on Fridays because that was the day that jays carried sticks down to the devil, along with reports about what people were up to that week. The jays finished their devilish duties in time to return to earth on Saturday, when they were always unusually gay and noisy, apparently relieved to be free from Satan for another week.
Many common American expressions take their origin from Blue Jays. “Naked as a jaybird” is one of the least sensible. Sure, Blue Jays don’t wear clothes, but neither do any other birds. “Crazy as a jaybird” at least makes a little more sense. Referring to a foolish or talkative person as a jay probably takes much of its sense from the bird, whose scientific name means “blue chatterer.”
But some of the derogatory sense of the word “jay” actually comes from the first Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court, John Jay, who signed the controversial Jay Treaty with Britain in 1794, which the Democratic Republican Party thought was unbelievable foolish. The expression “jay” also came to refer to country people—too rustic apparently to know how to cross a street properly, leading to the expression “jaywalking.”
Jays have added richness to American literature. Joel Chandler Harris referred to jaybirds, and Mark Twain wrote a whole story about a Blue Jay stuffing acorns into a knothole in a cabin—that story, from A Tramp Abroad, is titled “Baker’s Blue Jay Yarn.”
Yep, jays have given us a rich store of folklore and literature. And even today, Blue Jays are influencing popular culture. Their happy ways and good humor have even rubbed off on that most popular jay of all, Jay Leno.
This is Jim Baker, reminding you that there are only four more shopping days until Christmas, so you better hightail it up the shore a ways to Baker’s Blue Jay Barn while there’s still time. I’ve got stocking stuffers for jays of all ages and interests, from old fashioned marbles and jacks to high-tech computer software to help your favorite jay figure out his taxes. Heh heh—that’s just a little joke. Everyone knows Blue Jays are far too intelligent and civilized to earn an income. They take after Laura Erickson in that respect.
Anyway, here’s a special gift idea for that special jay gal on your list. You and I know that every Blue Jay looks perfect exactly the way it is, but sometimes a jay wants to help nature along a little. That’s why I came up with Jaybelline Eye Cosmetics. She’ll fell a lot more secure batting her eyes after she’s accentuated those delicate little white feathers on her eyelids with Jaybelline Eye Shadow. Birds don’t come by eyelashes naturally, but if your jay wants a chance to find out what they’re all about, I also carry a line of false lashes just right for those beady little eyes.
And, speaking of beady eyes—did it ever occur to you that sometimes jays get tired of looking in the mirror at brown peepers? That on special occasions, maybe they might prefer blue eyes to go with their feathers? That’s why I developed Baker’s Blue Jay Contact Lenses. They only go around once—let ‘em grab for all the gusto they can get.
And remember, stop by my store anytime before Christmas and get, absolutely free, a video of the critically acclaimed movie, *Dances with Blue Jays°, starring Kevin Corvid. Available only at Baker’s Blue Jay Barn, up the shore a ways.