Crosswords1 min ago
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It basically means that actually having something yourself is worth more than there being more of it you can't have. Like if you have an amazing girlfriend who loves you dearly and is everything you could want - she's worth more than the 2 gorgeous girls that just walked past you in the street giving you the eye - as you already have your girlfriend. Thats a bit of a pants analogy - sorry, couldn't think of anything else. And I don't want to provoke any debates on women as possessions or anything, thats not what I meant either.
It refers to game birds - and I don't mean willing ladies either! - such as pheasants etc. Clearly, if you have one of these actually in your hand, it means you've shot it and it now has value (worth) as food. Compare that with the two other pheasants that might still be crouching in the undergrowth (bush)...they're of no use to you at all.
Brewer's Dictionary says the ideat it exists in Russian. Translated it's " Don't promise the crane in the sky but give the tit in your hand" Er. Any offers? The image is of bird catchers not bird shooters.Birds were caught in nets or on sticky 'limed' twigs either for the table or as cage birds e.g. canaries and finches; they still are in some countries. Plainly the catcher can sell the one now, so that one is worth more than the two he might not catch . He should make the best of what he has, be satisfied and not abandon it on what might be a wild-goose chase ( sorry!)
Limed schmimed! The point is you've got the bird. The earliest uses of the phrase don't say either way, though I guess there was more liming, netting etc in the 1500s than shooting. Actually, the earliest versions refer to 'three in the wood' and 'ten in the sky', not 'two in the bush'. Bit of a problem liming birds in the sky! Cheers, Fred.