sick as a parrot: Idiom Meaning and Origin

What does ‘sick as a parrot’ mean?

The idiom "sick as a parrot" means feeling extremely disappointed or miserable about something.

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Sick as a parrot is an idiomatic expression that is commonly used in British English. It is typically used to describe a feeling of extreme disappointment or sadness.

The origins of this idiom can be traced back to football (soccer) culture in the 1980s. Football clubs across Britain would compete in various tournaments, including the UEFA Cup and the European Cup.

These prestigious competitions would often evoke a strong emotional response from both the players and the fans. Making it far in these tournaments was a source of great pride, and the disappointment of losing was equally devastating.

In 1981, Aston Villa, an English football club, made it to the final of the European Cup. Their opponent was Bayern Munich, a German football club. The final was held in Rotterdam, Netherlands, and it was expected to be a closely contested match.

The match ended in a devastating loss for Aston Villa, with Bayern Munich securing a 1-0 victory. The Aston Villa players and their devoted fans were heartbroken and deeply disappointed.

The media coverage of the match and the subsequent reactions contributed to the popularization of the idiom "sick as a parrot" to describe this overwhelming feeling of disappointment.

The phrase "sick as a parrot" is believed to have originated from a statement made by an Aston Villa player named Brendan Batson after the match. In an interview, Batson expressed his disappointment by saying, "I feel as sick as a parrot."

The sick parrot needs immediate medical attention.

This idiom quickly caught on within the football community and eventually made its way into common usage across British society.

The use of the word "sick" in this idiom does not refer to physical illness but rather to a sense of emotional distress or discomfort. The comparison to a parrot is somewhat puzzling, as parrots are generally associated with vibrant colors and lively behavior. However, it is possible that the phrase was chosen for its alliteration and rhythmic appeal.

It is worth noting that this idiom is not as widely known or used in American English. While there may be similar idiomatic expressions and phrases to convey a similar feeling of disappointment, "sick as a parrot" is not part of the everyday vocabulary for most Americans.

The idiom "sick as a parrot" has become deeply ingrained in British English, especially within the football community. It continues to be used to express a strong sense of disappointment in various contexts, not just related to football.

The connection to the Aston Villa loss in the 1981 European Cup final adds a historical context to the idiom, enhancing its cultural significance.

The related idiom "sick at heart" is similar to "sick as a parrot" in that it also describes a feeling of deep sadness or disappointment. However, "sick at heart" has a more somber tone and can be used to express a profound emotional distress.

The related idiom "sick and tired" is used to convey a feeling of extreme weariness or exasperation. It typically describes a state of being fed up or frustrated with a certain situation or person.

Overall, the idiom "sick as a parrot" serves as a powerful metaphor to describe a profound feeling of disappointment or sadness. Its origin in football culture gives it a unique historical context, and its continued usage in British English keeps it alive in contemporary language.

Example usage

Examples of using the idiom "sick as a parrot" in a sentence:

  1. After his team lost in the championship game, John was feeling sick as a parrot.
  2. She was sick as a parrot when she found out she didn't get the job she had been hoping for.
  3. The politician was sick as a parrot when she saw her approval ratings plummet after a scandal.

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