The race, as irritating old people used to say at school assemblies, is not always to the swift.
Yeah, try telling that to a PE Teacher.
Still, I can see what they were getting at. Hares-and-tortoises; Mary Wesley, whose first adult novel was published at the age of seventy one; Earl Grey, who took up a new job as Prime Minister at nearly eighty.
But, the thing is, who's to say that these tortoises mightn't have got more done if they'd got there sooner?
Anyway, to move (swiftly) on: there are birds that are, by definition, swift:
(this is a common swift)
and there are also swift moths:
Egyptian swift pigeons:
a swift fox:
and some swift lizards:
(swift is this vivaparous lizard's name in Cheshire dialect. There are also several American swift lizards).
Apart from the swift pigeon, which merely looks a bit like a swift, they're all notably speedy.
But what about the rest of us? Is it a good thing to be swift?
Well, Elizabeth Coatsworth wrote a poem called Swift things are beautiful, but Lysander in Midsummer Night's Dream speaks of love as being swift as a shadow, short as any dream.
Hmm...perhaps it'll best if we leave swiftness to the cheetahs and the dentists.
Thing To Be Today, Possibly: swift. This word comes from the Old English swiftan, to turn. This meaning can still be seen in the word swift being used for the cylinder of a carding machine and a device for holding skeins of wool.
The scientific name for a common swift (the bird) is Apus apus. Apus, rather endearingly, means no-feet.