November 08, 2008

Canary in a Coal Mine

Life for an actual canary in a coal mine could be described in three words - short but meaningful. Early coal mines did not feature ventilation systems, so miners would routinely bring a caged canary into new coal seams. Canaries are especially sensitive to methane and carbon monoxide, which made them ideal for detecting any dangerous gas build-ups. As long as the canary in a coal mine kept singing, the miners knew their air supply was safe. A dead canary in a coal mine signalled an immediate evacuation.
Even as gas detection technology improved, some mining companies still relied on the 'canary in a coal mine' method well into the 20th century. Other animals were used occasionally, but only the canary had the ability to detect small concentrations of gas and react instinctively.
Today, the practice of using a canary in a coal mine has become part of coal mining lore, but the ideology behind it has become a popular expression. The phrase living like a canary in a coal mine often refers to serving as a warning to others. The actual canary in a coal mine had little control over its fate, but it continued to sing anyway. In one sense, living like a canary in a coal mine indicates a willingness to experience life's dangers without compromise


Moi said...

oh my gawd!!!! U have been reading my mind.......i swear to the greatest gods in heaven that i have this post ready to put here since this week all began from an NYT article that mentioned it and I was like i have to put it up there on Semantica........and was exactly the source where I found the most info! 666, your evil prowess is beginning to scare moi now..........SERIOUS!!!!!

I will send you the article that started it all for moi..I am curious to know what led you to this expression......

Last but not the least, we have to keep Semantica going.......It's one of my fav. virtual thanks for reviving it......:)

666 said...

A ghoulish laughter.. (recurrent theme nowadays)

I have always succeded in stealing your thunder from right under your nostrils. I am elated the old form continues.. :-)

I am a regular reader of a financial blog where I chanced on the expression. Hadnt heard of it before and it sounded cute, hence searched it over.

Moi said...

Looks like the grand-father and grand moi-ther of the blog are the only patrons left here!!!! :(