Week of March 5, 2023

These Facts Give You Wings


The specialized wing structure that allows modern birds to fly is believed to have evolved from early theropods, the same dinosaur line that included T-Rex and velociraptor.


Those little wings pictured on angels and cherubs may be cute, but just wouldn’t be functional. A prehistoric bird similar in size to a modern human male needed a wingspan over 20 feet wide to fly, and even then likely just glided. Humans would need chest muscles far larger than a pro bodybuilder just to work those wings, not to mention lighter bones and other major anatomical adaptations.


The term “winging it” for improvising with little preparation comes from live theater. It referred to an unrehearsed actor who delivered his lines as prompted by an assistant in the sides or “wings” of the theater, unseen by the audience, or an actor who had just recently learned the lines while in the wings himself.


Likewise, the term “waiting in the wings” has theatrical origins. Someone waiting on these sides of the stage, just behind the curtain, is waiting for their opportune moment to enter.


The term “wingman” for a supportive or protective person originates with combat airplane formations, where a wingman flies outside and just behind the lead plane for support and protection.


A mother hen famously shelters her chicks under her wing for protection, hence the very old idiom “to take under my/your/his/her wing” for protective tutelage.


A bird cannot fly with certain feathers of it’s wings trimmed, so the allusion to restricting someone’s freedom by “clipping their wings” has been around since ancient Roman times.