[Ads-l] Polly want a cracker?

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 11 02:01:44 UTC 2019

A key parrot phrase. The original "cracker" seems to have been a sailor's
"hard cracker" (hardtack biscuit), and the phrase is evidently an

1849 _Knickerbocker_ (Dec.) 544: For sale, a Poll Parrot, cheap. He says a
remarkable variety of words and phrases, cries 'Fire! fire!' and 'You
rascal!' and 'Polly want a cracker;' and would not be parted with, but,
having been brought up with a sea-captain he is profane, and swears too
much for the subscriber, being a pious man, and having children in the
family, to whom his example is bad.

1852 [L. Lermont] _Aunt Patty's Mirror_ (Auburn, N.Y.:  Alden, Beardsley, &
Co.) 144  Common parrots...never in their education get beyond "Poll wants
a cracker!" and "Poll wants to get out!"

1855 _Daily Cleveland [O.] Herald (Sept. 6) 1:  With no more apparent
unction than a parrot would repeat "pretty Polly want a cracker."

1858_Weekly Ottumwa [Ia.]  Courier_  (March 18) 3: Polly want a cracker?

1858 _Weekly Hawk-Eye_ (Burlington, Ia.) (Aug. 31) 3: Polly wants a cracker!

1864 _Urbana [O.] Union_ (Dec. 7) 1: The parrot turned her head, and
looking at me sharply, said rapidly: ... "Pretty Poll, pretty Poll, poor
Poll, Polly wants a cracker!"

1866 _New-Orleans Times_  (May 22) (Suppl.) 2: We give the following advice
to our contributors: "P.Q."-- Mind your p's and q's. ... "R.G." [i.e.,
"rotgut"] -- Not any more, thank you. ... Polly--Polly want a cracker?

1888 _Aberdeen [Scot.] Weekly Journal_ (Apr. 21) [unp.]: Dealer...(to
parrot): "Polly want a cracker?" Polly (solemnly)--Let her go, Gallegher."


"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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