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Where did that phrase come from - Don't bury your head in the sand
Stan St. Clair

First, I want to thank James Clark for his kind words about my last column in his excellent editorial, The Scoop, on Wednesday.

I’m sure a lot of us would have loved to have “buried our heads in the sand” this year and not come out till we were “back to normal” again, whatever that means! But refusing to see the gestalt, the big picture, and being derisive in divisive times is also a bit like burying one’s head in the sand.

This metaphor, of course, infers that we should not to try to avoid the inevitable, especially danger, by pretending it doesn’t exist. The root of this comes from a story written by philosopher Pliny the Elder (23-70AD) in Ancient Rome suggesting that ostriches hide their heads in bushes. Later it was claimed that they hide their heads in the sand and they think if they can’t see people, then the people are not able to see them. On Friday evening, June 11, 1858, Charles Spurgeon, one of the most influential ministers of his day, used this illustration in his rousing sermon, “A Free Salvation” on the Grandstand at Epsom Race-Course in London:

“Did you ever hear of the ostrich? When the hunter pursues it, the poor silly bird flies away as fast as it can, and when it sees that there is no way of escape, what do you suppose it does? It buries its head in the sand, and then thinks it is safe, because it shuts its eyes and cannot see. Is that not just what you are doing? Conscience will not let you rest, and what you are trying to do is bury it. You bury your head in the sand; you do not like to think…” 

The next year this sermon was printed in The Penny Pulpit: A Collection of Accurately Reported Sermons by the Most Eminent Ministers of Various Denominations.

The truth is, ostriches actually don’t bury their heads at all. But this grand proclamation by such a famed minister likely spread the saying around the globe, though others have reported its origin as later.

If you would like to know the origin of a favorite expression, text the author at 931-212-3303 or email him at stan@stclair.net.