pirateparrot.jpgHere 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

  1. 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.
  2. Parrots, especially African Grey Parrots, are well known as birds who can imitate human speech.
  3. 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.”
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Poll or Polly has been a common parrot name for centuries, with an early documented use from 1611.
  7. 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.

  8. 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

  9. Or Paulie (1998), a movie about a parrot.
  10. 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).
  11. 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 Faust Eric
  12. Parrot Heads are the nickname given to fans of the musician Jimmy Buffett
  13. 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.

9 thoughts on “squawk

  1. Oh, I like the joke.

    When I was in South Africa I met the most untalented African Grey Parrot anyone could come across. Luckily, the owners seemed to totally overestimate their pet’s gifts, so it was only me who noticed.

  2. raincoaster-
    Nuh-uh! Is not!

    Glad you liked the joke (and followed the link to it. So few do.) Funny story about the less-talented bird you met.

    Patient Boy-
    Yes, that is an unexpected word pairing. It certainly would be a good band name.

  3. Aaarr… ye be right about that, me hearty. Mad Roger Flint and meself can’t seem to stop talking like pirates these days.

    There’s a pet shop near where I live that is the sort of pet shop I can handle. They mostly deal with fish and birds, iguanas and turtles and sometimes hamsters and chipmunks.

    They don’t have cute puppies and kittens well beyond their ‘sell-by cuteness date’ stuck in small cages looking forlorn and desperate to be taken home by someone.

    Anyhow, the owner of this shop has an African Grey parrot that is her pet, but he lives in the shop (which is open 7 days a week). I’ve never seen such an affectionate bird. It’s sits on her shoulder and snuggles up against her neck, rubbing her chin with its beak, and is very good at SQUAWKING – I’ve never heard it ‘speaking in English’. Or in Spanish, for that matter. But it’s lovely to see him looking so content and happy.

    As for ex-parrots … nope, can’t see them pining for anything. But that is one of my favourite Python sketches. :)

  4. Azahaaaaarrrrrrrrrrrrrr-
    Aye, ’tis ture. This pirate talk business be addictive. It’ll drive ye mad!
    Affectionate and squawking sound pleasing in a pet bird. Perhaps the human language chattering is an unreasonable demand.

  5. I’ve been trying to find the etymology (if any, other than mine) of the word “parrothood”. I believe that I coined the term in 1981 in reference to being one of the pioneers of domestic breeding efforts dating back to 1978. “Parrothood” is symbolic of working with large collections of parrots in breeding them for the pet trade and for preservation of endangered species. Please let me know if this term predates my terminology. I have heard of the word being used by someone in reference to use of vocabulary. Feedback would be appreciated.

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