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Owls Ask "Who?"

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Good question, my feathered friend.
Professor Bird Brain: I thought there'd be blue-bottomed boobies everywhere!
Owl: Hoo.
Bird Brain: BOOBIES!
Bat: Where?
Bird Brain: HERE! At the convention!
T.U.F.F. Puppy, "Booby Trap"

Animals, for the most part, don't typically talk. Despite this, one of the animals that comes closest to participating in a coherent conversation (not counting parrots) is the owl, its call of "hoo" being often mistaken for the owl asking "Who?" in English.

The confusion can also happen in French-language works and translations, except the "hoo" sounds like "Où ?" ("Where?") instead. Dutch-language works and translations understand the "hoo" as "Hoe?" ("How?").

A subtrope of Who's on First?. Compare Animal Species Accent and Pokémon Speak. If they keep asking Who because they are dumb, it's Unwise Owl.


    open/close all folders 
  • The "America's Best" owl commercials were originally based on an inversion of this, with the humans constantly asking "who?" and the owl responding eloquently to their questions, as seen here. Later commercials dropped this element.
  • Fifteen minutes can save you 15% or more on car insurance. Everyone knows that. Well, did you know some owls are not that wise?

    Comic Books 
  • Archie Comics: When Archie and his friends went camping, Archie woke up to an owl's hooting, and proceeded to wake the others:
    Archie: Did you say who?
    Jughead: Who me?
    Reggie: Who said who said who me?
    Moose: Duh... Who what?
    Chuck: Hoo-boy!
  • Suske en Wiske: This happens to Wiske in "Het Witte Wief," with the Dutch version of the joke ("Hoe"). She continues answering the Hoes for half a page before finally realizing she's talking to an owl.
  • A Young Allies comic that has the Allies fighting Nazi infiltrator The Owl ends with the defeated Owl leaving a note promising to return: "He has many faces and many characters! Again you will wonder... Who? Who? Who?"

    Fairy Tales 

    Fan Works 
  • Quite a few My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic fan works do this, inspired by the Running Gag of the episode "Owl's Well That Ends Well."
    • Chaotic Harmony:
      Sonic: Whew... it's just an owl. You aren't going to start talking, right?
      Owlowiscious: Who?
      Sonic: You, duh.
      Owlowiscious: Who?
      Sonic: You! I'm talking to you right now!
      Owlowiscious: Who?
      Sonic: You! You, okay!? Geez, and I thought that pink pony was annoying!
      Owlowiscious: Who?
      Sonic: Alright, that's it! Say "who" one more time. I dare ya, birdie! I. Dare. You.
    • Getting Back on Your Hooves:
      Trixie: Um... hello there...
      Owlowiscious: Hoo?
      Trixie: Trixie.
      Owlowiscious: Hoo?
      Trixie: Umm... Trixie.
      Owlowiscious: Hoo?
      Trixie: Trixie!
      Owlowiscious: Hoo?
      Trixie: You stubborn bird! I said my name is Trixie!
      Owlowiscious: Hoo?
      Twilight: Trixie, he's an owl, that's all he can say!
      Trixie: Oh! Um yes! Trixie knew that! Oh look at the time! Goodnight!
    • And again in A Voice Among the Strangers. This time it happens off-screen between Spike and Owlowicious, with Spike only realizing later that he fell into the same trap as always. This one is noteworthy because it happens in a story where the Equestrian language explicitly sounds nothing like English.
      Twilight: We would have been here sooner but Owlowiscious and Spike got into an argument over who was cleaning up later today.
      Spike: Hey, it's not my fault he kept asking who was meant to... be... doing—... argh.

    Film — Animated 

    Film — Live-Action 

  • A common joke goes like this:
    Alice: Someone told me you sound like an owl.
    Bob: Who?
  • This trope pops up in quite a few knock-knocks.
    • Such as this one:
      Alice: Knock knock.
      Bob: Who's there?
      Alice: Hu.
      Bob: Hu who?
      Alice: You sound like an owl.
    • Or this one:
      Alice: Knock knock.
      Bob: Who's there?
      Alice: Owls.
      Bob: Owls who?
      Alice: Yes, they do.
    • Or this variation:
      Alice: Knock knock.
      Bob: Who's there?
      Alice: Owl says.
      Bob: Owl says who?
      Alice: You bet. Hoo, hoooo!
  • This joke, which became a popular meme on TikTok:
    Alice: Someone we know is possessed by an owl!
    Bob: Who?
    Alice: [narrows eyes]

    Live-Action TV 
  • The Civil War. An antedote is related about a nervous sentry who mistook an owls hoot for a "Who?" (as in "Who goes there?") and introduced himself to what he assumed was a superior officer.
  • A canine version occurs in The Goodies episode "Frankenfido", in which a dog called Cuddly Scamp is a contestant on Mastermind.
    Magnus Magnesium: In the art of weaving, the strands of wool in one direction are known as the warp; what is the name given to the strands going in the other direction?
    Cuddly Scamp: Woof!
    Magnus Magnesium: And woof is the correct answer! Now when something is divided into two equal parts, each of these parts is known as...?
    Cuddly Scamp: Arf!
    Magnus Magnesium: Correct—half! And can you tell me the family of birds divided into screech, tawny and barn?
    Cuddly Scamp: (howling) Owwwwwllll!
    Magnus Magnesium: Owl is correct! And now the final question which could win you the title of Mastermind of the Year... What was the name of the collar worn by the nobility in Elizabethan times?
    Cuddly Scamp: Ruff!
    Magnus Magnesium: Ruff is right!
  • A Whose Line Is It Anyway? game of Greatest Hits had Ryan try to make an owl/who joke to introduce the next song, but Colin derailed it...
    Ryan: What kind of bird always says the name of our next band?
    Colin: Oh... I guess... a... tern? An arctic tern?
    Ryan: And what sound does an arctic tern make?
    Ryan: [corpsing] No! No, Col! That's wrong.
    Colin: Well, why don't you tell us what's right?
    Ryan: I was thinking an owl.
    Colin: Oh!
    Ryan: Who. The Who is our next band on this CD set.

    Myths & Religion 
  • A non-owl non-"Who?" variant of this trope is seen in Classical Mythology, Philomela, Procne and Procne's husband Tereus are turned into birds: Procne into the nightingale, Philomela her sister into the sparrow as her tongue was ripped out by Tereus who raped her so she wouldn't tell the tale... and Tereus, whose son was killed by the women as revenge for the rape into the hoopoe, because to Ancient Greeks, the hoopoe's call sounds like the Greek word "where?" (ὅπου / hopou), as if he was still looking for his killed son.

  • Done in the rhymes based on Saint-Saens' "Carnival of the Animals" by Ogden Nash:
    But do not laugh at the jackass wild, for there is method in his he-haw:
    For with maidenly blush, and accent mild, the jenny-ass answers "She-haw."

    Puppet Shows 

    Video Games 

    Web Animation 
  • Helluva Boss: The demon prince Stolas (who is, naturally, an owl) says "anyhoo" during his conversation with Blitzo in the first episode. He will also, on very rare occasions, make the noise itself.
  • Owl-themed hololive member Nanashi Mumei gave an intro of "Hoo's this?" for the HoloPromise play of Family Feud.
  • Turnabout Storm: Same as with other MLP:FIM examples. Later on, Spike manages to get stuck in the cycle once again.
    Phoenix: Hey, an owl.
    Owlowiscious: Hoo.
    Phoenix: You, you're an owl.
    Owlowiscious: Hoo.
    Phoenix: You mean "Who am I?" Phoenix Wright, with a "Ph" and a "W."
    Owlowiscious: Hoo.
    Phoenix: You know? You make Big Macintosh look like a blabbermouth.
    Owlowiscious: Hoo.
    Phoenix: [sigh]

    Web Comics 
  • In this Petfoolery comic, a girl comes across an owl, and asks if it has seen her brother. Naturally, it says "Who," except it wasn't making owl noises - it was legitimately asking her who her brother was, telling her that she needs to provide more information.
  • In Realm of Owls, the city of Buffet used to just be called "Hoo" and later "Hoohoo," but both were deemed too confusing because each of those words had at least 400 different meanings to the owls who live there.

    Web Videos 
  • In Kid Time Storytime, Hooty the owl speaks in "hoo"s, so sometimes people think he's asking, "Who?"
  • Scootertrix the Abridged: Episode 24 starts with Twilight having purchased Owlowiscious and making plenty of owl puns, including "Who?" This comes back to bite her in the flank in "Scootertrix The Epilogue: Twilight's Punishment," when she is kidnapped by a parliament of owls who are mad at her for purchasing an owl and making owl puns, especially "Who?" because "it's our word!" Her punishment is being subjected to horse puns for 24 hours.
  • Zentreya of VShojo once fell victim to this.

    Western Animation 
  • One episode of 2 Stupid Dogs takes place at a graveyard. The big dog is starrtled by an owl making "hoo" to which he responds "Who?". After short exchange the dog runs off in panic, to which the owl comments "Stupid dog."
  • In the Animaniacs segment "Woodstock Slappy," Slappy wants to know which band is playing. Skippy tells her Who is playing, leading to a confused back and forth between the two where Slappy keeps asking about the band and Skippy keeps answering "Who." About a third in, Slappy notes that Skippy is beginning to sound like an owl.
  • Bojack Horseman: Slightly subverted when Bojack meets Cute Owl, Wanda Pierce.
    Pinky: Wanda, meet the one and only, Bojack Horseman.
    Wanda: Who?
    Bojack: Bojack.
    Wanda: Who?
    Bojack: Bojack Horseman.
    Wanda: That name supposed to mean something to me?
  • One of the quiz gags with Fish on The Cat in the Hat Knows a Lot About That! involves an owl that keeps hooting when Fish is trying to ask us his question about what sound an owl makes.
    Fish: You got it this time, but next time I'll stump you for sure.
    Owl: [hooting] Whooooo.
    Fish: Me, that's who!
  • The Casagrandes: In "Squawk in the Name of Love," after the family parrot Sergio got dumped by his ostrich girlfriend Priscilla, Carl tells him to just find another bird to date. Sergio has tried, but it never went well. In one case, it's because she "just didn't listen."
    Sergio: And for the fifth time, this is Ronnie-Anne!
    Owl: Who?
    Sergio: [Facepalm] Auuugh!
  • The Critic: When Eleanor Sherman is feeling depressed, her husband Franklin turns to "Wilson" for advice. When Eleanor feels better, Franklin told "Wilson" the good news.
    Franklin: Oh, Wilson, my wife is happy again!
    ["Wilson" is actually a scarecrow with an owl perched on its shoulder]
    "Wilson": Hoo.
    Franklin: My wife, Eleanor.
    "Wilson": Hoo.
    Franklin: My wife, Eleanor.
    "Wilson": Hoo.
    Franklin: My wife, Eleanor. [continues into the night...]
  • Elinor Wonders Why: "Owl Girl" has Elinor waking up to someone keep saying "who" from outside. She and her mom would later find out that it was an owl who has been making that sound, the same owl Elinor has seen sleeping at day, and so she learns of its nocturnal nature.
  • Family Guy
    • In the episode "Quagmire's Quagmire", after Quagmire says to Sonja that she shouldn't be afraid to be different, a cutaway of three owls begins. The first two hoot in the usual fashion, but the third one says "Whom" instead, and the other two owls eyes turn judgementally.
    • The episode "Secondhand Spoke" features a cutaway of "Owl and Costello", where Lou Costello is performing part of the trope-naming Who's on First? routine with Abbot replaced by an owl.
    • The episode "Absolutely Babulous," Peter greets his family one morning with an owl on the shoulder, which he denies he stole from the Pewterschmidt mansion's enclosed owlery. After Lois asks Peter "What were you two talking about last night?" the owl hoots, prompting Peter to reply "Yeah, who?" This gag is repeated before Peter gets bored with the owl and decides he's returning it to the owlery.
  • Garfield and Friends: One of the gag bloopers in "Mistakes Will Happen" is an owl that not only goes "who," but also "where" and "when."
  • The Little Rascals: In "Rascals' Revenge," as the kids approach the abandoned house:
    Darla: Look! The door is open!
    Alfalfa: Maybe someone is expecting us!
    [owl hoots]
    Alfalfa: The ghost of Captain Mildew, that's who!
  • In the Merrie Melodies short "A Day at the Zoo," the narrator introduces "the wise owl," who immediately asks "who?" The narrator explains that he is the wise owl and the owl, put on the spot, retreats to his nest while responding with "oooooh!"
    Owl: Who?
    Narrator: You.
    Owl: Me?!
    Narrator: Yes you.
    Owl: Oooooh!
  • My Gym Partner's a Monkey: In "Don't Noc It 'Til You Try It", Jake and Windsor go into a room, where an owl class is taking place. Windsor explains the scenario to the owl teacher, and he replies, saying "Who?" to everything. This starts up an Abbot and Costello, "Who's on First Base?" bit, which goes on long enough for Jake to get restless. Jake lashes out at the teacher, to which the teacher replies "What?" Annoyed with the situation, Jake leaves.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: This is a fairly consistent running gag with Owlowiscious:
    • Used as a Running Gag in "Owl's Well That Ends Well," Owlowiscious' "hoo" is understood as the question "Who?" most of the time.
      Spike: Uh... hi there! I'm Spike. I'm sure Twilight has told you all about me.
      Owlowiscious: Hoo.
      Spike: Uh, Spike? You know, assistant number one?
      Owlowiscious: Hoo?
      Spike: I'm Spike! And who are you? What are you?
      Owlowiscious: Hoo!
      Spike: Who?
      Owlowiscious: Hoo!
      Spike: I thought your name was Owlowiscious!
      Owlowiscious: Hoo?
      Spike: Okay, "Who," "Owlowiscious," whatever. I'm Spike, okay? Look! All you need to know is that I'm number one and you're number two. Got it?
      Owlowiscious: Hoo?
      Spike: So, a man of mystery, huh?
    • In "Inspiration Manifestation," at first, Spike's conversations with Owlowiscious seem like a reprise of their first meeting, but eventually he starts responding to what the owl is saying.
  • Played with in the Phineas and Ferb episode "Wizard of Odd." Stacy Hirano's counterpart in Oz is an owl with a human head. While nobody answers her call of "Hoo," this is a Casting Gag as Stacy's voice actress is Kelly Hu.
  • Scooby-Doo, The New Scooby-Doo Movies: Scooby believes to see Don Knotts but as an owl hoots, he responds about the said celebrity guest. Velma learns about the owl.
  • At the end of the Walter Lantz Productions short "Scrambled Eggs," Peterkin tries to shift blame for mixing up the birds' eggs. First, he blames the squirrels, prompting the skeptical owl to intimidatingly ask "who?" Nervous, Peterkin changes his story to blame the chipmunks, earning himself another "who?" from the owl. He can't come up with someone else to blame before the birds attack him, knowing quite well Peterkin's the perpetrator.
  • The Simpsons: In "Milhouse Doesn't Live Here Anymore," Bart is sad over Milhouse having moved away. Marge encourages him to go play with Lisa, telling him, "You'll be like an owl, saying, 'Milhouse who? Milhouse who?" Bart isn't amused.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: In the episode "Mimic Madness," SpongeBob has done so many impressions of everyone he talks do he becomes a shapeshifter from the chest-up, but he undergoes a Shapeshifter Identity Crisis and flees into a cave not sure who he is. He sings a song about this, starting with him doing an owl impression.
    Owl SpongeBob: Who? (Hoo) Who? (Hoo) Who? (Hoo) Who? (Hoo) Whooooo am I?
  • In T.U.F.F. Puppy, one of Professor Bird Brain's henchmen is an owl who only ever says "Who?" This naturally results in some Who's on First? jokes, infuriating Bird Brain repeatedly.


Video Example(s):



Spike first encounters Twilight's new owl assistant, Owlowicious.

How well does it match the trope?

4 (12 votes)

Example of:

Main / OwlsAskWho

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