Old British Slang "Bird" for young girl - still used?

Yes, even as an American I know what the term means, but I’m in my mid-40s and a connoisseur of old Brit-Coms like “Are You Being Served” or “Doctor in the House”, so I don’t count (and honestly as a kid I don’t recall that term being in popular usage in the US during the ‘70s). Anyway, after watching some “Two Ronnies” clips over the weekend, I wondered if a young British boy (born more or less in the 21st century, say age 12, and a boy because we’re talking about hot women), living in a typical English town (um…Slough - why not?) would understand a joke like one in the 2-Ronnies’ “How To Build a Shed” sketch - narrator says “make sure the shed roof is steep enough to prevent Birds from roosting”, and then the obvious sight gag of three young ladies struggling not to fall off the shed roof…OK, the joke’s a bit flat, but it’s illustrative.

Question the First:
Does ANYONE still use the term “Bird” (in the sense of a young, usually attractive, girl) UN-IRONICALLY* in the UK today

Question the Second, part A:
Was the term “Bird” in common, non-ironical usage in the UK during the '60s-70s

Question the Second, part B:
If Question 2A was true (and judging from various publications, I think it was), when did the term pass out of general usage in the UK - the late 1970s? early 1980s?

*UN-IRONICALLY meaning not as part of television, movie, or print comedy - but rather two young guys in real-life c1970 saying let’s go to the disco and pick up some birds.

I’m a Brit (mid 40s) and I still use it. Much to my wife’s chagrin. In fact I think that’s the main reason I still us it!!

Season 9 episode 13 I think

Steven Fry: Can you name an intelligent bird?

Jo Brand: Me!
(I’m not sure if this meets your criteria of being ‘un-ironic’)

Brit here, age 27. I use it and it’s commonly used where I live, almost always non-ironically. Can’t answer your second question but I don’t think part B is relevant.

Just this morning NPR’s Morning Edition featured a report on a very large sculpture of a women that carried the nickname ‘Big Bird’. I don’t think the usage has gone obsolete.

It’s hard to say. I’ve never heard anyone use it non-ironically, but Dead Cat above has had a different experience. Perhaps it’s a geographical thing; maybe he’s from the North. When I was young (1990s) the preferred term was “chick” - which sounded more innocent, a lot more American and thus more modern - but even that had an air of The Sweeney about it. It was generally associated with tabloid-speak* and old TV comedy, and depending on how you used it, it was either self-consciously retro or just plain offensive. And British people have a love-hate relationship with the past. As Britain modernises, it Americanises, as a wise man once said, and “bird” is too old-fashioned to be very nostalgic about.

Like “coon”. Plenty of people used that word in the past; it’s less offensive than the n-word, but that’s because it sounds ridiculously dated, the kind of thing Alf Garnet would have said. For every “guv” and “sorted” and “blag” that modern people look back fondly on, there are words that people want to forget. Bird has, in my experience, always been on the cusp.

And then there’s New Lad, which emerged in the 1990s as a kind of safe, middle-class imitation of an idea of what working class culture might have been like. But even then “bird” still came across as a bit Carry On, a bit too hardcore. Not even funny, like “tart” or “strumpet”.

And did people in the 1970s use it all that often? Was it just the kind of hard-sounding but inoffensive language put on by television scriptwriters in lieu of the ability to broadcast the c-word, the n-word, the f-word? I’m nervous about asking an actual old person if he said “bird” a lot in the 1970s. Old people are… I dunno, they’re unsophisticated, they don’t wash as often as we do.

“Of the two-legged variety”. I tell you, when Americans talk about flipping the bird, I have a much ruder mental image than they do.

I’ve heard it but I’d say it’s a bit old fashioned. However the local term “bewer” is more common here.

I’m in my mid-30s, from southern England, and use it. It’s a jocular word, but I wouldn’t call it “ironic”. For example, talking about a party, you might bemoan the lack of birds, or say “I was talking to this bird the other day…”

It’s the sort of word you’d use with your mates, but probably not in front of your wife (unless you wanted a :rolleyes: look), or in other polite company.

Don’t recall exactly when or what about, but heard it recently from a 30ish Brit.

Interesting - someone in his 20s (assuming Mr Cat is indeed a he) and others in his peer group are still using it non-ironically at this late date - wow! Intriguing

We (in the US, in my peer group of teens/20s during the 1980s) were definitely using “chick”, and I think even back in the 1960s that phrase was popular. I’ve heard people use it nowadays (unfortunately it leads on shows to even lamer sight gags).

Heh, good one - I wonder if any normal American would have gotten those references (they probably would get “Tart”)

I would think not, but again I wasn’t there - I’m just guessing from lines from, say, “Are You Being Served” with Mister Lucas’s eternal quest to chat up the birds at the disco - doesn’t seem like any hidden dark meaning by the screenwriters there. (AYBS is also from where I learned that by the mid-70s, British women had adapted that deplorable habit of dancing in clubs in a big impenetrable circle surrounding their pocketbooks, which I and the other all-American guys hated when we actually encountered American women doing that 15 years later on this side of the Pond).

To put it in context a little,here’s a Mitchell and Webb sketch (there’s one for every occasion and usually NSFW) within which the term
“bird” would certainly be used un-ironically, these days however it is a bit old-hat.

And BlindBoyard, “bewer” is a term from my youth as well, not from the north-east by any chance are you?

Absolutely. In very common use then, and through the '80s too. I can’t say after that as I moved to the USA in 1990, but I do not think it is likely to have died out (and other posters seem to bear that out).

I don’t think I have ever heard it use “ironically”.

It may be worth noting that there is an older, and mostly obsolete, British usage of “bird” to mean a man: often “old bird” used affectionately, or else to mean an older (but not necessarily elderly) man. You find this a lot in P.G. Wodehouse stories, set in or around the 1920s. (Some of the slang in Wodehouse is probably invented, but I don’t think this is.)

Yup, i don’t say it, but 3 times out of 10 my friend’s refer to women as ‘bird’s’.:o

Incidentally, the OP’s use of “young girl” is a bit peculiar (though I realize some people sometimes use “young girl” to mean “young woman”). “Bird” would never be used of a child (though it might well be used of a teenager). It always carries the implication that the woman referred to is of at least potential sexual interest.

Yep. Early 20s, in London and south east England. A lot of people use it. It’s probably not as common as it was in the 80s and 90s but it’s around.

Tom Wolfe in The Bonfire of the Vanities (1987) referred to the blonde, good-looking second wives of very rich men in NYC as “Lemon Tarts.”

This thread brought this quote to mind:

*“I spent a lot of money on booze, birds and fast cars. The rest I just squandered.”

  • George Best

I’m an American but watch some British shows and listen to some British podcasts and I hear it all the time non-ironically.

YouTube Top Gear Bloopers…

Presenter Jeremy Clarkson says “All the birds got great tits!” starting @ time index 3:07.

Also, on Wheeler Dealers, Edd China often describes some item on the car he just fixed as “sorted”.