Created By: StarSword on August 12, 2012 Last Edited By: StarSword on August 21, 2012
Troped

Fowl Mouthed Parrot

A bird or other animal that mimics profanity.

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"DUMTHARAK BARMATHAR!"
-- Volothamp Geddarm's new parrot, Neverwinter Nights 2: Storm of Zehir

Parrots, mynahs, crows, and some other birds have a well-known ability to mimic many of the sounds they hear. Thus, it shouldn't be surprising that some of them learn to cuss like a sailor.

This is primarily a comedy trope, used for a laugh as the parrot's embarrassed owner tries frantically to shut the bird up. The trope is occasionally paired with an Incredibly Lame Pun about "fowl language". Hence the trope name.

It's also Truth in Television. Because parrots live for a very long time, most parrot owners are advised not to swear around them so that when the owner dies, the parrot doesn't have trouble finding a new home. For some reason, most prospective pet owners don't want their bird swearing at them.

This is a sister trope to Not in Front of the Parrot, where the bird repeats something important it overheard such as the combination to a safe or a villain's Evil Plan. Do not confuse this trope with actual talking animals; this trope is about mimicry of profanity. Compare to Innocent Swearing, where the one doing the parroting is a sapient being (usually a kid) that doesn't understand that it shouldn't say such things.

Examples:

Comic Books
  • One of Ralf König's comics featured a parrot whose prior owner spent all his free time watching porn. The parrot had an understandably difficult time finding a new owner.
  • A G-rated version happens in The Adventures of Tintin: The Broken Ear. Tintin ends up with a parrot that quickly begins to imitate Captain Haddock's unusual euphemisms, particularly "Blistering Barnacles!"
  • Bertie Blunt (His Parrot's A Cunt) in Viz.

Literature
  • While maroooned in the South China Sea in one of the Destroyermen books, Silva discovers a flying lizard that takes a liking to him, much to his chagrin. Being an enlisted man, Silva swears a lot, in particular calling the parrot equivalent a "stupid shit". You can probably see where this is going.
  • In the Garrett, P.I. series, Garrett receives "the Goddamn Parrot" from his friend Morley. TGP's vocabulary primarily consists of appreciative but extremely vulgar descriptions of female anatomy, which he loves to indulge in whenever a woman comes to visit.
  • A G-rated version appears in the Fudge books. Fudge is very proud of his mynah bird, Uncle Feather, who can speak French. Any time someone addresses the bird he responds by saying, "Bonjour, Stupid."
  • The ship's parrot in Nation, who spends most of the book shouting "Show us yer drawers!" at no-one in particular.

Live-Action TV
  • One episode of Happy Endings has Alex buy a parrot that keeps making racist remarks.
  • NYPD Blue had the Pointy-Haired Boss bring in an obnoxious parrot that repeated everybody. Sipowicz forces the boss to get rid of it by a simple trick: he plants a tape recording of somebody shouting "Douchebag! Douchebag!" in the parrot's room overnight. You can watch it here.

Video Games

Western Animation
  • One cutaway of Family Guy has Joe buy a talking parrot. Peter immediately teaches it the word "cripple", much to Joe's dismay.

Real Life
  • Finagle's Law means that the one time you slip up in front of the parrot (e.g. you stub your toe on the coffee table and drop a Cluster F-Bomb), the parrot will inevitably remember it.
  • There's a story about a couple who kept an African grey parrot in their bedroom. One night the couple "got busy". Later on they had some guests over and the parrot repeated the events of the night.
  • President Andrew Jackson's parrot had to be removed from his funeral because it wouldn't stop swearing. In two different languages, no less.
Community Feedback Replies: 31
  • August 12, 2012
    randomsurfer
    Not In Front Of The Parrot has some examples you could take.
  • August 13, 2012
    StarSword
    Added the ones I thought applicable and expanded the trope description. Thanks for pointing that out, randomsurfer.
  • August 13, 2012
    TonyG
    On Happy Endings, Alex buys a parrot who keeps making racist statements.
  • August 13, 2012
    Xtifr
    So, is the name a typo or a bad pun?
  • August 13, 2012
    Psi001
    One cutaway of Family Guy has Joe buy a talking parrot, Peter immediately teaches it the word "cripple", much to Joe's dismay.
  • August 13, 2012
    StarSword
    @Xtifr: Yes, the trope name is an intentional pun. We might consider Neverwinter Nights 2 the Trope Namer. Adding the Happy Endings and Family Guy examples.
  • August 14, 2012
    Xtifr
    Hmm, well if you really want to make it clear that it's a pun and not just a misspelling, what about Foul Mouthed Fowl? Plus, that way you could expand it to cover all sorts of talking birds, like mynahs and ravens.

    • In the Garrett PI series, Garrett receives "the Goddamn Parrot" from his friend Morley. TGP's vocabulary primarily consists of appreciative but extremely vulgar descriptions of female anatomy, which he loves to indulge in whenever a woman comes to visit.
  • August 14, 2012
    nitrokitty
    • In The Adventures Of Tintin, The Broken Ear, Tintin ends up with a parrot who quickly begins to imitate Captain Haddock's distinct euphemisms, particularly "Blistering Barnacles!"
  • August 14, 2012
    Dacilriel
    A G-rated version appears in the Fudge books. Fudge is very proud of his mynah bird, Uncle Feather, who can speak French. Any time someone addresses the bird he responds by saying, "Bonjour, Stupid."
  • August 14, 2012
    StarSword
    Added new examples and altered the trope title and laconic to Fowl Mouthed Bird (I'm trying to get this indexed under Just For Pun). Also removed the hyphen from the trope title, as it makes it more difficult to link to (reference Two-D Space, which requires brackets). The idea is to apply a custom title if and when this gets published.

    I still think "Fowl Mouthed Parrot" is a better name, though, since the trope is usually done with a parrot. So far, we've got nine parrots, one mynah, and a parrot-like flying lizard from an alternate Earth.
  • August 14, 2012
    Xtifr
    Yeah, the Fowl Mouthed Parrot may look more ok once its launched. Here at YKTTW, it looks like an error because there's so many badly spelled early-stage proposals.

    If we do go with that name, though, I strongly recommend having a redirect at Foul Mouthed Parrot to help people searching for the trope, who may not remember or be aware of the pun.
  • August 14, 2012
    LobsterMagnus
    Webcomics:
    • There is Yelling Bird from the filler comics of Questionable Content. (Although he is a Talking Animal rather than a creature that just mimics human speech without understanding it.)
  • August 14, 2012
    StarSword
    Redirect sounds good.
  • August 14, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^^ love the strip, but I don't think it should count. I think the difference between bird that parrot human speech and actual Talking Animals is too great, and this should be about the former.

    I think going back to the original name, Fowl Mouthed Parrot, might help avoid this confusion. The description can mention that this is actually called parroting, even when it's done by other sorts of birds.
  • August 14, 2012
    StarSword
    I agree, and have altered the trope description and laconic to compensate.

    BTW, is anyone else seeing an ad for bird cages right now? :D
  • August 14, 2012
    randomsurfer
    ^I get Southwest and Airtran.

    One you missed from Not In Front Of The Parrot:
    • NYPD Blue had the Pointy Haired Boss bring in an obnoxious parrot that repeated everybody. Sipowicz forces the boss to get rid of it by a simple trick: he plants a tape recording of somebody shouting "Douchebag! Douchebag!" in the parrot's room overnight.

    (Adding: you can watch it here.)
  • August 15, 2012
    StarSword
    Got it.

    Also, we've crossed the threshold for publishing. I think it's ready. Anyone care to provide a second opinion?
  • August 15, 2012
    StrikingViking
    What about kids who repeat cuss-words spoken by an adult? I've seen this played for laughs more than once.
  • August 15, 2012
    DaibhidC
    • The ship's parrot in Nation, who spends most of the book shouting "Show us yer drawers!" at no-one in particular.
  • August 15, 2012
    StarSword
    @DaibhidC: Added.

    @StrikingViking: I'm unsure if that should count. I originally envisioned this trope as applying to animals, but I suppose that could count since the kid is just mimicking somebody.
  • August 15, 2012
    randomsurfer
    @Striking Viking: Innocent Swearing covers that.
  • August 16, 2012
    triassicranger
    Episode 2 of the BBC's Just William adaptation (the one starring Daniel Roche) has a parrot that says words like "bum" (not swearing, but still considered naughty enough by William and his friends).
  • August 16, 2012
    SharleeD
    The Garrett PI example, BTW, is strongly implied to be invoked. His friends must've spent weeks teaching that thing to swear like a dockhand.
  • August 16, 2012
    TBeholder
    "parrot learned to swear" is included in Not In Front Of The Parrot. Is the difference big enough?
  • August 16, 2012
    Xtifr
    ^^ I don't remember that being established, though I do remember him speculating about it.

    ^ Yeah, it's distinct. Not In Front Of The Parrot is about watching your mouth around the parrot. It doesn't cover the case where you go out and buy a parrot, and then discover it was previously owned by a sailor who swore like a...sailor. Not In Front Of The Parrot may lead to this, but it's a different trope.
  • August 20, 2012
    StarSword
    bump
  • August 20, 2012
    BOFH
    Comic Books
    • Bertie Blunt (His Parrot's A Cunt) in Viz.
  • August 20, 2012
    StarSword
    added
  • August 20, 2012
    Waterlily
    "There's a story about a couple who kept an African grey parrot in their bedroom. One night the couple "got busy". Later on they had some guests over and the parrot repeated the events of the night."

    I could swear I heard a variation of that story where a husband learns of his wife's infidelity where their parrot repeats what she said to her lover.

    I thought it was on snopes but I can't find it there.
  • August 20, 2012
    StarSword
    I honestly hadn't heard of either version until I read Not In Front Of The Parrot, so your guess is as good as mine.
  • August 21, 2012
    StarSword
    Launched. Thanks for the help, guys.
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