A visit from the stork

A visit from the stork is an idiom that may not be as old as you think. An idiom is a commonly used word, group of words, or phrase that has a figurative meaning that is not easily deduced from its literal definition. Often using descriptive imagery or metaphors, common idioms are words and phrases used in the English language in order to convey a concise idea, and are often spoken or are considered informal or conversational. English idioms can illustrate emotion more quickly than a phrase that has a literal meaning, even when the etymology or origin of the idiomatic expression is lost. An idiom is a metaphorical figure of speech, and it is understood that it is not a use of literal language. Figures of speech like an often-used metaphor have definitions and connotations that go beyond the literal meaning of the words. Mastery of the turn of phrase of an idiom, which may use slang words or other parts of speech common in American slang or British slang, is essential for the English learner. Many English as a Second Language students do not understand idiomatic expressions and idiomatic language such as hit the sack, spill the beans, let the cat out of the bag, silver lining, back to the drawing board, barking up the wrong tree, kick the bucket, hit the nail on the head, face the music, under the weather, piece of cake, when pigs fly, and raining cats and dogs, because they attempt to translate them word for word, which yields only the literal meaning. English phrases that are idioms should not be taken literally. In addition to learning vocabulary and grammar, one must understand the phrasing of the figurative language of idiomatic phrases in order to know English like a native speaker; it is helpful to maintain a list of phrases, common expressions, colloquial terms, and popular expressions to memorize that are used figuratively or idiomatically. We will examine the meaning of the common idiom a visit from the stork, where it came from, and some examples of its idiomatic usage in sentences.

When someone is anticipating a visit from the stork, it means that the person is going to have a baby. Usually, the expression a visit from the stork is used to describe a couple expecting the birth of their own, biological infant. The term is a euphemism, which is a word or phrase that is a substitute for a more blunt, harsh, offensive, or unpleasant word or phrase. The origin of the phrase a visit from the stork has been debated; some try to tie the term to Greek and Egyptian myth. Some tie the belief storks deliver babies to medieval times, when Northern Europeans married in mid-summer and birthed their babies in the spring—when migrating storks returned to nest in the area. However, the term a visit from the stork didn’t come into wide use until the 1800s, after Hans Christian Anderson published his fairy tale, The Storks, in 1838. In the story, storks pluck dreaming babies from ponds and deliver them to their families. The phrase a visit from the stork was popular from Victorian times through the 1970s or so, when it was much more common in the West to speak euphemistically about biological functions.


Emma Roberts and Garret Hudlund are expecting a visit from the stork. (New York Daily News)

And as lockdown eased, it was revealed that Kareena Kapoor Khan and Anushka Sharma also had a visit from the stork.  (Times of India)

And just last month, Malin Andersson from 2016’s series announced she was expecting a visit from the stork. (Cosmopolitan)

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