As the crow flies
The expression as the crow flies is an idiom for the most direct path between two points, rather similar to "in a beeline". This meaning is attested from the early 19th century, and appeared in Charles Dickens's 1838 novel Oliver Twist:
We cut over the fields at the back with him between us – straight as the crow flies – through hedge and ditch.
Crows do conspicuously fly alone across open country, but neither crows nor bees (as in “beeline”) fly in particularly straight lines. Crows do not swoop in the air like swallows or starlings, and often circle above their nests.
One suggested origin of the term is that before modern navigational methods were introduced, cages of crows were kept upon ships and a bird would be released from the crow's nest when required to assist navigation, in the hope that it would fly directly towards land. However, the earliest recorded uses of the term are not nautical in nature, and the crow's nest of a ship is thought to derive from its shape and position rather than its use as a platform for releasing crows. It has also been suggested that crows would not travel well in cages, as they fight if confined.
- Allen, Robert (2008). Allen's Dictionary of English Phrases. Penguin UK. ISBN 9780141917689.
- Knowles, Elizabeth (2006). The Oxford Dictionary of Phrase and Fable. Oxford University Press, UK. ISBN 9780191578564.
- Villazon, Luis. “Do crows actually fly in a straight line?”, BBC Focus (August 30, 2017).
- "World Wide Words: As the crow flies". World Wide Words.
- Dundes, Alan (2004). "As the Crow Flies: A Straightforward Study of Lineal Worldview in American Folk Speech". In Lau, Kimberley J.; et al. (eds.). What Goes Around Comes Around: The Circulation of Proverbs in Contemporary Life. Utah State University Press. pp. 171–187. ISBN 978-0-87421-592-2.
- Winfield, Charles H. (1882). Adjudged Words and Phrases: Being a Collection of Adjudicated Definitions of Terms Used in the Law, with References to Authorities. Jersey City, NJ: J.J. Griffiths. p. 45. OCLC 3364516.
as the crow flies.
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