Here it is, the day after International Talk Like a Pirate Day, and I’ve still got pirates on the brain. But rather than bringing you a list of pirates for this week’s Themed Things Thursday, I’ll bring you a list of the frequent pirate’s companion: the parrot.
A Flock of Parrots
- Parrots are frequently to be seen on the shoulders of pirates¹, specifically of fictional pirates. Captain Flint was a pirate’s parrot in Treasure Island, the pirate novel by Robert Louis Stevenson. More recently, we’ve seen the pirate in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
- Parrots, especially African Grey Parrots, are well known as birds who can imitate human speech.
- This is no doubt the source of the use of the word parrot as a verb (transitive), meaning repeat without really understanding. As in “They parroted my parrot jokes, but none of them laughed.”
- You can find a variety of parrot jokes out there. (These even a site with pirate and parrot jokes.) This is probably my favorite parrot joke.
- Polly want a cracker? The stereotypical parrot sentence, whether said to a parrot, or by a parrot. Possibly popularized in Robert Lewis Stevenson’s Treasure Island.
- Poll or Polly has been a common parrot name for centuries, with an early documented use from 1611.
- Also in the nursery rhyme:
Little Poll Parrot
Sat in his garret
Eating toast and tea;
A little brown mouse
Jumped into the house,
And stole it all away.
- Then there’s the song “Polly,” by Nirvana
Polly wants a cracker
I think I should get off her first
I think she wants some water
To put out the blow torch
- Or Paulie (1998), a movie about a parrot.
- Parrots have been featured in various folktales from around the world, like 2 Buddhist folktales from India “The Brave Little Parrot.” (who puts out a forest fire²) and “The Steadfast Parrot” (who is faithful to a tree) and an
Italian folktale (involving a prince who has himself turned into a parrot).
- Other moderately famous parrots include Waldo the Parrot, from Twin Peaks (who seems to have been present, and biting, the night of Laura Palmer’s death) and Parrot, the parrot with biting sarcasm from the Terry Pratchett novel
- Parrot Heads are the nickname given to fans of the musician Jimmy Buffett
- And to round things off, I bring you Python’s parrot. The ex-parrot. He is decidedly not pining for the fjords.
¹ Or about the arms and head, especially of those posing as pirates.
² Kind of like a friend of mine did recently, except he used a plastic bag to put out the fire.