For the Birds Radio Program: Mark Twain's "Baker's Blue Jay Yarn" (Original)

Original Air Date: July 25, 1986

Laura gives Mark Twain the last word on Blue Jays.

Duration: 2′57″


![Blue Jay] ( “Blue Jay”) Blue Jays

(Recording of a Blue Jay)

When I talked about Blue Jays last week, one or two listeners from Port Wing, Wisconsin, pricked up their ears–there’s a few Blue Jay haters in those parts. I decided to let Mark Twain have the last word on the Blue Jay. He said:

“There’s more to a blue-jay than any other creature. He has got more moods and more different kinds of feelings than other creatures; and, mind you, whatever a blue-jay feels, he can put into language. And no mere commonplace language, either, but rattling, out-and-out book- talk–and bristling with metaphor, too–just bristling! And as for command of language–why, you never see a blue-jay get stuck for a word. No man ever did. They just boil out of him! And another thing: I’ve noticed a good deal, and there’s no bird, or cow, or anything that uses as good grammar as a blue-jay. You may say a cat uses good grammar. Well, a cat does–but you let a cat get excited, once; you let a cat get to pulling fur with another cat on a shed, nights, and you’ll hear grammar that will give you the lockjaw. Ignorant people think it’s the noise which fighting cats make that is so aggravating, but it ain’t so; it’s the sickening grammar they use. Now I’ve never heard a jay use bad grammar but very seldom; and when they do, they are as ashamed as a human; they shut right down and leave.

“You may call a jay a bird. Well, so he is, in a measure–because he’s got feathers on him, and don’t belong to no church, perhaps, but otherwise he is just as much a human as you be. And I’ll tell you for why. A jay’s gifts, and instincts, and feelings, and interests cover the whole ground. A jay hasn’t got any more principle than a Congressman. A jay will lie, a jay will steal, a jay will deceive, a jay will betray; and, four times out of five, a jay will go back on his solemnest promise. Now, on top of all this, there’s another thing: a jay can out-swear any gentleman in the mines. You think a cat can swear. Well, a cat can; but you give a blue-jay a subject that calls for his reserve powers, and where is your cat? Don’t talk to me–I know too much about this thing. And there’s yet another thing: in the one little particular of scolding–just good, clean, out-and-out scolding–a blue-jay can lay over anything, human or divine. Yes, sir, a jay is everything that a man is. A jay can cry, a jay can laugh, a jay can feel shame, a jay can reason and plan and discuss, a jay likes gossip and scandal, a jay has got a sense of humor, a jay knows when he is an ass just as well as you do–maybe better. If a jay ain’t human, he better take in his sign, that’s all.”

(Recording of a Blue Jay)

That was Mark Twain, this is Laura Erickson, and this program has been “For the Birds.”