For a change, today’s saying has nothing to do with the old days of sail
and in fact isn’t a saying at all
but a name. Specifically, we are talking about a bird from the thrush family called a wheatear. Wheatears aren’t that common – I used to be a bit of a bird watcher and I don’t recall ever having seen one. But what I have always remembered about this bird is being told by a fellow and much more knowledgable bird watcher than I that ‘wheatear’ wasn’t its original name, but that this was a fairly modern – probaly Victorian – euphemism. It was called after the white patch on its rump, especially noticeable when in flight, and was known in simpler times a White Arse!