I had one of those "What? Americans don't say that?" moments this week when reading Lynne Murphy's excellent blog about the differences between British and American English, where she asserts
But there is a meaning difference for parakeet. AmE uses that name for the little birds that are kept as pets, what BrE (and some US pet bird enthusiasts) call budgerigars or budgies, for short.
Whaaaaat? No budgies in the US? I had no idea. I am pretty sure that "budgie" is the common name in Canada, rather than "parakeet".
A corpus search does indeed reveal a relative dearth of budgies in the US, compared to Canada and other English-speaking countries.
If you are Canadian or American, please let me know what you call this bird**.
Budgie dates from the 1930s, while its parent, "budgerigar", was a mid 19th-century Australian borrowing of Aboriginal origin, perhaps an alteration of gijirrigaa, the bird's name in Kamilaroi (the language of an Indigenous Australian people whose lands extend from New South Wales to southern Queensland). A budgerigar is a kind of parakeet (a small parrot):
a small gregarious Australian parakeet which is green with a yellow head in the wild. It is popular as a cage bird and has been bred in a variety of colours.
I have always loved it when dictionaries use the word "gregarious" in fauna definitions. I can't help having images of the budgies getting together with their pals for a tea party.
"Parakeet", on the other hand, is a mid 16th-century borrowing from Old French paroquet, Italian parrocchetto, and Spanish periquito; its origin is uncertain, perhaps (via Italian) based on a diminutive meaning ‘little wig’, referring to head plumage, or (via Spanish) based on a diminutive of the given name Pedro.
Now, I know that if I don't head you off at the pass, some of you are going to mention in the comments or in emails a famous Australianism / New Zealandism:
plural nouninformal Australian, New Zealand
Men's brief, tight-fitting swimming trunks. [what other varieties of English call "Speedos"]
‘Tarzan, as we dubbed him, took to wearing the tiniest pair of purple budgie smugglers while sunbathing on his corrugated iron roof
The OED, which dates this term from 1998, explains its etymology primly thus:
With reference to the appearance of the male genitals in figure-hugging trunks.
Here's a picture if you lack imagination.
"Parakeet smuggler" just doesn't have the same ring to it.
**By the way, it was lovely hearing from so many of you about "chesterfield" and your linguistic bios. It would seem that "chesterfield" is still alive and well among the over-seventies. So not dead! But it certainly has faded away amongst those younger than that.
Those in their forties, fifties and sixties reported "I used that as a kid, or my parents used it, but sometime in the 1970s/80s I switched over to couch or sofa."
There is a furniture chain in greater Toronto called The Chesterfield Shop. According to their website it is, tellingly, "a family-owned furniture store since 1948", but, equally tellingly, the tabs on their website are for "sofas" and "sofa beds". So I think "chesterfield" in their name is a kind of fossil.