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Owls Ask "Who?"

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Good question, my feathered friend

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.



    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.

    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".
    • Turnabout Storm
      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]
    Later on, Spike manages to get stuck in the cycle once again.
    • 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.
    • 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.

    Films — Animation 
  • Sleeping Beauty: When Briar Rose talks to her animal friends, the owl naturally goes "hoo?", which she takes as a question.
  • An American Tail: Fievel Goes West: While lost in the desert, Tiger sees what he thinks is his girlfriend Kitty, and as he calls for her, she only asks "Who?" It's only when he comes to give her a kiss does he realize that it was actually an owl sitting on a cactus.
  • In The Sword in the Stone, it's how we're first introduced to Merlin's owl, Archimedes. When Merlin checks his watch and concludes that someone [Wart] will be arriving in half an hour, Archimedes pops out of his bird house and says, "Who? Who? I'd like to know who?"

    Films — 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.

    Puppet Shows 

    Video Games 
  • In Transylvania, occasionally when you change screens, the narration will hear an owl hooting nearby and playfully ask, "(Who?)"
  • In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, Blathers does this when awakened during the day.
    Blathers: Whooo...WHO?

    Web Comics 

    Web Videos 
  • In Kid Time Storytime, Hooty the owl speaks in "hoo"s, so sometimes people think he's asking, "Who?".

    Western Animation 
  • 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!
  • 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".
  • 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.
  • 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...]
  • 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.
  • 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?
  • Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: When Rudolph and Herbie are singing "We're a Couple of Misfits" the line "Who decides the test, of what is really best?" is followed up by an owl asking "Who? Who?"
  • 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 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.
  • 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!"
  • In the Family Guy 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.
  • The New Scooby-Doo Movies: Scooby believed to see Don Knotts but as an owl hoots, he responded about the said celebrity guest. Velma learned about the owl.
  • 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.


Video Example(s):



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

How well does it match the trope?

3.67 (6 votes)

Example of:

Main / OwlsAskWho

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Main / OwlsAskWho