My dad and I were going to a White Sox game. Not just a Chicago thing to do. But a south-side Chicago thing to do. A two fisted thing. I’m ten or eleven years old. Happy to be going to see some baseball, get some hot dogs, hang out with my dad.

Then as we’re waiting for a light on a tree-lined street I see a tufted titmouse in a tree. I never saw one ‘til then. And I say, hey, a titmouse.

My dad thinks all birds are called birds. Period. Maybe some are called chickens or turkeys, and I guess he’d know an eagle on a quarter, but he doesn’t get into it more than that.

“A what mouse?” He says.

I’d recently studied birds in school so I knew the different kinds and knew this was a tufted titmouse. A little chickadee with a crest on its head. Don’t ask me why, but I remembered it and thought it was cool to see one.

That day was the beginning of my being teased about birds.

Sure, I liked making my dad laugh. It wasn’t easy. What could a little kid say that was funny enough to make a grown-up laugh? But this did it.

Titmouse. He laughed a belly laugh on that car trip. And later telling this to family and friends: “Hey, we saw a titmouse today.” Laugh, laugh.

Then whenever I went hiking in woods or on vacations to nature-heavy resorts like Starved Rock State Park, I’d get: hey, going to look for some tit-mice, are you?


As a kid this embarrassed me. I knew full well what tits were, the kind guys talked about in schoolyards. The kind I really wanted to see.  But that wasn’t a family subject, tits.

I guess his derision of my interest in tits, the bird names, contributed to my becoming a little defensive about bird watching. Hence, the whole two-fisted thing which might be a bit of an over-compensation for feeling like a bird nerd as a kid. Well, so be it.

In America we have the tufted titmouse and maybe one other kind, a western titmouse. But in England and Europe they have birds just plainly called tits.

There’s the blue tit and others like that. Also, let’s not forget the great tit. I looked for this bird on a trip to Europe. So I could come back from a hike and say, “Saw a couple of great tits today.” But I didn’t see them and couldn’t say that.

Now, let’s not forget that there are also birds named boobies. Blue-footed booby, red-footed, etc. Tits and boobies. Is this a great hobby for guys or what?

By the way, the team playing the White Sox that day? The Baltimore Orioles. On the south side of Chicago those words had only one definition, even to me. Freakin’ ball players.

8 Responses to “Tits”

  1. Momsroo says:

    Let’s not forget the doubly unfortunately named bushtit.

  2. norm schaefer says:

    Titmouse……say, isn’t that what you would call Minnie Mouse, Mickey’s, girlfriend. They never did get married. Shameful. 60 odd years of being a girlfriend! I don’t think I ever saw Boobies on Minnie. Sorry…….

  3. Steadyjohn says:

    I had great fun with the “Great Tit” business a couple of years ago on my blog Conservacity: http://rightofmiddle.wordpress.com/2008/05/09/great-tits-cope-well-with-warming/

  4. Michelle says:

    I agree, those names are hilarious :P Tits and boobies – lol!

  5. Texas John says:

    Speaking of unfortunate bird names, a few days ago I told my daughter (age 11) that I saw a brown creeper during the CBC. She started to giggle then broke into uncontrollable laughter. “Excuse me,” she finally said, “but I have to go to the bathroom and release a brown creeper.” And so for the last week or so she uses the brown creeper euphemism for going poo… It’s good to see an immature sense of humor doesn’t skip generations.

  6. Josh says:

    Hey, great post. Very funny.

  7. [...] the Titmouse causes a double-take from my non-birdwatching buddies, as discussed in the story “Tits” posted elsewhere on this site. "Did someone say Rufous-Sided [...]

  8. rob says:


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