A silly joke about a parrot made the rounds of 19th-century American newspaper, and may be the source for our expression “cry uncle,” meaning “to give up.” This is part of a complete episode.

  1. Al says:

    This explanation, of all you have ever given, seems the most contrived. Why was being used as the word for the parrot? This seems more like a joke based on an existing expression — which brings me to the theory I accept…

    In “How The Irish Invented Slang,” by Daniel Cassidy, he claims that the Gaelic word for mercy is “anacal” (loosely pronounced ahna-kaal). The influx of Irish immigrants is what brought this saying to America, as well as a book of other expressions. Most of these expressions were not written in literature, so it’s easy for their origins to be lost

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