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Do Parrots Really Known Language?

A listener in Hartland, Vermont, has a 25-year-old African parrot named Trouble, and says he’s often asked about the bird’s vocabulary and how the two of them communicate, which raises the question “What is a word?” Grant...

Crying Uncle

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.


What is a popinjay? Literally a parrot, this term is often used in a military context to refer to a vain or conceited officer with a Napoleon complex. And a bandbox boy? That once commonly referred to an officer who gave excessive attention to his...

Polly Wanna Cracker?

A man who owns a parrot says that when people see his bird, they invariably ask the question “Polly wanna cracker?” He wonders about the origin of that psittacine phrase, meaning parrot-like. One of the earliest uses of the phrase so far...