Tag Archives: Devil’s Advocate

Canary in a Coal Mine

canary

What was said? I’m the CANARY!

Did someone really say that? Yes, on a call with our company’s lawyers, they were playing devil’s advocate and after asking a few questions, the lead lawyer yelled “I’m the Canary!” apparently referring to a “canary in a coal mine.”

What does it mean?  “Canary in a coal mine” is a metaphor about providing advance notice or warning of potential danger.

Origin: The expression dates back to 1911 when the concept of having a canary as an early detection system for hazardous gases in coal mines was introduced by John Scott Haldane in Great Britain. Miners used caged canaries to determine if there were any hazardous gasses (methane, carbon monoxide). If the canary died, that would signify the gas levels are poisonous to the miners as well and that they should exit the mine immediately. Birds were chosen as they get air in their system when they inhale and exhale, doubling the dose of potential toxic gases. In 1986, electronic warning detection systems were put in place, saving the birds from potential harm. In the case above, our lawyer was calling out signs of potential risk, hence calling out “I’m the Canary!” when playing the role of devil’s advocate.

On another note…“Canary Release” is a technical / IT term that refers to reducing the risk of introducing new software by slowly rolling out the change to a subset of users before rolling it out to all.

Sources:
https://www.smithsonianmag.com/smart-news/story-real-canary-coal-mine-180961570/
https://birdnote.org/show/canary-coal-mine
http://grammarist.com/usage/canary-in-the-coalmine/

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Filed under Business Sayings, Idiom, Idioms, Phrases, Sayings