The “Fid” Debate

One of the odd customs that arrived with the Internet is the ability to start a “flame” war. For example, if someone states an opinion which you dislike, you (assuming you are this sort of person) can ignore the fact that everyone is entitled to their opinions, and fire off a scathing reply. You can tell the person about their lack of mental acuity, their close personal relationship to animals of the lower orders, and question if their family tree has any forks. (

Now, usually this behavior is discouraged in internet communities. Also it’s well known that if you ignore the flamer, he or she will go away looking for a more responsive target. But if your heart is really involved in the subject under discussion, going away may not work well for you.

The term “Fid” stands for furred or feathered kids. Lots of people consider their birds, dogs, cats, goats, horses, and so on, to be substitute children, and positively part of the family. It’s an affectionate term meant to convey that close relationship. I have no objection to the word or the meaning, but the very first Internet flame war I ever saw started over an innocent use of Fid.

At the time, my bird club had a group on Yahoo. Posts would arrive by email, or you could read everything directly at Yahoo. I was a moderator and often posted links to interesting bird photos and articles, as well as the lost bird information from 911 Parrot Alert. A past president of the club and lifetime member sent a post to the group that contained lots of good information. But at the end, she said something about her fids.

You would have thought she insulted the mother and all grandmothers of the person who responded with a very negative post. This responder is a very knowledgeable person who often came and talked to our club about many diverse subjects. She felt the use of the term Fid encouraged people to anthropomorphizing parrots, which in turn led to parrots not getting their basic needs met, and creating a bird who plucked or screamed or was overly destructive. And the bird became a dependent for life. Looking to people for socializing, food, water, and companionship. And security.

Well, I disagreed as gently as I could, and given that I wasn’t the person who made the first comment, I kept a pretty good emotional distance. My opinion was that the phrase did not automatically lead to mistreating the parrot, being only an affectionate term that didn’t always harbor poor pet-keeping habits. More flames appeared in the exchanges.

The original poster eventually returned to the conversation, and tried valiantly to lay oil on these troubled waters. Ah, sadly, oil and flamers don’t mix. And sadly the knowledgeable person severed her ties to the club.

In searching the net for some good information about the term Fid, I had to tell Google it was slang. Otherwise it means some sort of tool of a tapering shape. But the Parrot Forums came through with someone asking about the term and a cute discussion of the meaning and uses. (

To my surprise, there is a whole new group of such terms, and I still find them charming: Fibling, Faby, Frat. If you can’t guess the meaning, here’s the answer sheet: (

Apparently in Oxford slang, a Fid is a violin. Short for fiddle, which makes some sense. Did you know Antarctica has it’s own slang? Here are a few entries: FIDS – “Falklands Islands Dependencies Survey” was the original name for the “British Antarctic Survey” (BAS). Members of FIDS referred to themselves as Fids and the name stuck. It is usually taken as meaning someone who has travelled to Antarctica and worked on a FIDS or BAS ship or base. Some purists maintain that it should only apply to those who have wintered on such a base. Br.

Fidlet – A FID in his or her first year, sometimes considered as someone in their first summer south preceding the first winter after which they will be a Fid proper. Br. (

Absolutely unconnected is this Wikipedia page on cockatoos, but for some reason it came up in my search pages and has really interesting stuff: ( I looked for Fid on the page and could not find it. Let me know if you do.

So what am I getting at with this post? Good question! I often remember that heated debate over a term of affection, and am saddened that the person who threw the first fireball felt so strongly about it in such a negative way. How can someone who made her living through bird breeding and behavior information have been so resentful of the relationship other people have with their parrots? It’s a puzzle I still have no answer to.

As your New Year hatches and grows, fledges and flies, I wish you may keep peace in your heart and tolerance in your words. And may your flock bring you harmony and love.


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