Humor of Polyglot Parrot

Humor of Polyglot Parrot is adapted from Barry Farber’s book, “How to Learn Any Language.”

Here is an excerpt adapted from the chapter ‘The Plunge’ in the book “How to Learn Any Language,” pages 99 & 100:


Parable of the Parrot

Once upon a time in a land far away, a rich farmer was looking for a unique anniversary present for his wife to celebrate fourteen years of marriage.

While shopping he found himself in front of a pet shop.

In the window was a parrot. It was not very colorful in plumage, but the price tag for the parrot was a whopping four thousand dollars.

The sign said -- amazingly -- that the parrot spoke not just a few words but fourteen different languages.

It just so happened that the man’s wife loved languages, and thought that anything said in a foreign language sounded romantic, even if she didn’t understand a word of it.

The farmer’s wife loved to talk, maybe a little too much. Sometimes he even overheard her talking to herself. Frankly, after so many years of marriage the farmer was a little tired of listening to her, even though he still loved her more than ever.

The man thought, ‘Fourteen years, fourteen languages! She’ll love it. Let her talk to the bird.’

He went into the store and said to the clerk, “Are you sure that’s a parrot? It looks a little like a pheasant.”

The clerk said, “His name is Polyglot Parrot, because he speaks so many languages.”

The farmer tried talking to the bird.

No response.

The clerk explained, “It’s not that the bird is shy. I think he’s tired of being asked to talk all the time and forced to put on a show.”

“Well, how can I get him to talk to my wife? asked the farmer.

“I got the bird from a famous chef, who always got him to talk by saying, ‘Hello. What’s cooking?’”

When the farmer said the magic words, it set the bird off on a string of greetings in foreign languages:

The bird replied, “Hello. Hallo. Hola. Olá. Hei. Hej. Bonjour. Salve. Dag.”

“Wow!” said the farmer, “I’ll take him.”

So he bought the bird.

He went home to their farm and mounted the bird’s perch in the kitchen.

Then realizing he’d forgotten birdseed, he drove back to the city to the pet shop, bought the right birdseed, and then back home at dusk, hoping to have everything in readiness before his wife got home.

But she’d already returned home ahead of him, and he could hear her talking in the kitchen. Just as he was about to walk into the kitchen, he said the magic words,

“Hello. What’s cooking?”

“Darling!” she said, “What a marvelous anniversary present! You remembered how much I love pheasant. I’ve got him plucked, stuffed, and already in the oven.”

“You what? That was no pheasant. That was a parrot that spoke fourteen languages!”

“Well,” replied his wife, “why didn’t he say something?”



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