The Ornithologist

A lawyer approached the guy that empties the bins at the mall as he was tying off a bag. “You’re not how I imagined a distinguished ornithologist,” she said. “But you’ll do.”

“A musicologist already failed to assist me,” she pointed her nose skyward, “so let’s see if you can do any better. How do you classify a bird call?”

The arrogant lawyer still hadn’t introduced herself, but if the cleaner-come-ornithologist wanted to keep from getting sacked, he figured he’d better indulge the mall patron to avoid making a scene. He explained the use of onomatopoeia to describe bird sounds: “Twit-twoo, hoot-hoot, cluck, chatter, whistle and whip.”

He listed all the birds that came to mind which were named for their call: “Currawong, cuckoo, chough, babbler, koel, kea, pewee, chachalaca, willet.”

Finally, he explained the language of “Warblish”, which pairs the meter of a bird’s call with a linguistic phrase: “Barred owls ask ‘who cooks for you?’ California quails say ‘Chicago’ and white-throated sparrows sing ‘o Canada’. ”

The lawyer ignored the man’s exaggerated watch-checking gesture. He had to get back to work soon or he’d face the sack. He let her explain her predicament which was FINALLY forthcoming.

“My client’s boss whistles at work. I want you – as my expert witness – to draw on your knowledge of bird calls to objectively testify that his whistling is sexually-aggressive; like a wolf-whistle. We’re going to sue him for all he’s worth.”
“And is his whistling sexually-aggressive?”
“That’s not important.”

He thought a moment, but not for too long, lest he should lose his minimum wage job. “My friend has a Congo Grey Parrot.” He began. “It’s a very clever bird. It belongs to a species that can be trained to talk. “ The lawyers arms were crossed as she tapped her foot impatiently. “You know what my friend trained it to say?” She shook her head.

“Piss off!”


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