Stop Burying Your Head in the Sand
Sometimes when faced with a problem, someone will decide to simply ignore it. They desperately hope that it will somehow disappear on its own. An idiom describes this behavior; this person is “burying their head in the sand.” This saying originates from a misunderstanding over a thousand years old.
Roman author Gaius Plinius Secundus, known as Pliny the Elder, wrote an extensive collection of books titled Natural History. In these 37 books, Pliny attempts to document all of Rome’s knowledge. In Book 10, Chapter One, Pliny focuses on discussing birds and begins with the largest: the ostrich. After describing their extraordinary size, strength, speed, and even digestive abilities, Pliny writes, “Their stupidity is no less remarkable; for although the rest of their body is so large, they imagine, when they have thrust their head and neck into a bush, that the whole of the body is concealed.”
Contrary to what Pliny wrote, ostriches do not try to hide by burying their heads. Rather, in response to predators, ostriches will run, kick, or lay flat on the ground. The working theory is that Pliny’s confusion originated from seeing the ostriches bend their heads toward the ground to eat.
Despite its inaccuracy, Pliny’s theory doggedly lived on. Over time, ostriches’ supposed behavior became symbolic for anyone ignoring their troubles, eventually becoming the idiom known today. Therefore, “burying your head in the sand” does originate from ostriches, but only due to humans misinterpreting the birds’ behavior.