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A Little English : Who's the top bird? (2)

【明報專訊】The birds were having a great time chattering away and everyone had a different opinion on who should be considered the top bird.

"It's obvious to me that top means height and I am easily the tallest here," said the stork. "You all know the famous Chinese saying, "a stork among the chickens(鶴立雞群). My superior status is supported by literary opinion..."

"Don't be silly," shrieked the parrots. "Those at the top are the ones who make the most noise and that's US! You must listen to us because we are the loudest!"

"You're loud alright but can you build a bower?" asked the lyrebird. "Have you any concept of architecture?"

The parrots had no answer to this but the peacock proudly strutted(昂首闊步)forward and informed the crowd, "To be at the top is to be an artist and I am a supreme living work of art." So saying, he gave a display of his splendid tail feathers. Some cheered and some jeered.

The bickering went on and on as it seemed that everyone had some special talent. The woodpecker could make holes in trees; the albatross could fly for months on its great wings; the nightingale could sing the sweetest song.

Suddenly a huge dark shadow loomed above the crowd and an enormous bird stepped out and said, "Top bird, that's me!"

"Can you fly faster than ME?" demanded the eagle.

"No, I can't fly at all."

"Can you swim faster than ME?" demanded the penguin.

"No, I can't swim either."

The crowd was astonished — what sort of a bird was this that could neither fly nor swim?

"Well, what can you do?" they wanted to know.

"I can run!"

There was an uproar and shouts of "birds don't run". The owl called for everyone to calm down and asked the big bird, "Just exactly how well can you run?"

"As fast as a horse!" came the response. The birds were amazed and even more so when the huge creature displayed its ability by racing a few laps on strong athletic legs.

"I'm an ostrich, you see, and can run so fast that I don't need to fly or swim. Since none of you can outrun me, I'm obviously the top choice."

For once, the owl was speechless but the parrots screeched, "You're not a real bird! You can run but you can't fly or swim."

"No, I can't! What does it matter when I can do something none of you can?"

■Something to discuss

What is talent? Each of us is born with all sorts of abilities. We learn to develop our abilities just as birds learn how to fly. Athletes and artists train hard to develop such natural abilities. But sometimes when someone with extraordinary talent appears, we may not find it easy to accept such an individual. What abilities do YOU have?

■Some useful constructions

either ... or; neither ... nor

Usually, a bird can either fly or swim or both. But this bird can neither fly nor swim. It can't fly and it can't swim.

■Text: A Lamb

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