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BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'

23 Apr 06 - 01:21 AM (#1725093)
Subject: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Little Hawk

Where and when did this oft heard expression come into popular usage...and why? Why do people inflict this kind of idle harassment on innocent parrots, most of whom would probably rather be called "Reginald", "Steerforth" or "Agatha" or some other name with a little weighty dignity, and most of whom would rather eat something more tasty than a cracker?

Well? Whaddya think?

Could there be a pirate connection?


23 Apr 06 - 02:50 AM (#1725111)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: GUEST,Cluin

Nobody wants a cracker.

Except another cracker.


23 Apr 06 - 04:06 AM (#1725124)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: John MacKenzie

I think it was a biscuit [cookie] advert which feature a parrot/macaw allegedly saying "Polly want a cracker" Possibly a company called Huntley and Palmer
Giok


23 Apr 06 - 04:14 AM (#1725125)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: DMcG

Are you sure it wasn't a parrot (possibly called Reginald) commenting on the desire of its owner, called Polly, for a most attractive partner?


23 Apr 06 - 08:09 AM (#1725212)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Liz the Squeak

Try here....

LTS


23 Apr 06 - 08:19 AM (#1725214)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: number 6

Never mind the cracker ... why was a parrot called Polly? Would you call a parrot Polly?

sIx


23 Apr 06 - 08:42 AM (#1725228)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Dave Hanson

Long established convention, we broke with tradition with our cats, the only one I have now is called Stan, after the great Stan Hugill.

eric


23 Apr 06 - 09:19 AM (#1725253)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: number 6

Named one of our hounds Otis ... after the blues pianist Otis Spann.

Certainly wouldn't name any of my pets Polly.

sIx


23 Apr 06 - 11:34 AM (#1725331)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Uncle_DaveO

Why "Polly"??   Why not?

Why "Rover" for dogs?   Or "Spot"?

Dave Oesterreich


23 Apr 06 - 01:04 PM (#1725386)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: GUEST,Art Thieme

I was told by one who should know that it started in 18th century Atlanta, Georgia when a hooker named Polly put it on a shingle on her establishment in the 'red light district...

Art


23 Apr 06 - 02:22 PM (#1725445)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Little Poll Parrot
Sat in his garret
Eating toast and tea.
A little brown mouse
Jumped into his house
And stole it all away.

"Polly want a cracker' is a line of dialogue in Stevenson's "Treasure Island."

Ben Johnson is credited with first naming a parrot 'pol' (=Paul). The play "Volpone," 1611.

and probably other possibilities on the web.

'Poll parrot' also is a polite term for a snitch.

Another version of Art Thieme's story- In New Orleans I heard that the hooker was named Perrot. She made a fortune servicing Crackers.


23 Apr 06 - 03:22 PM (#1725490)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: GUEST

Obviously, Polly wants a cracker to go with her cup of tea. Having already put the kettle on, she gets the crackers ready while Suki takes the kettle off and makes the tea.


23 Apr 06 - 03:32 PM (#1725493)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: melodeonboy

Whoops! That was me above. Sorry; I forgot to sign in.


23 Apr 06 - 05:00 PM (#1725541)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Little Hawk

This sounds like a good possibility, from Liz's link...

"I'm a writer in the Yukon and have been asked to research the Caribou Hotel in Carcross. There was a Polly here, that died in 1972, and it is claimed that he was the original Polly. He could sing opera, but had a vulgar vocabulary otherwise. He came to the Yukon over the Trail of '98 and was left at the hotel in 1918 when its owner boarded a steam ship to go south for the winter. The S.S. Princess Sophia was wrecked and all 342 passengers and crew died. Word of Polly spread throughout the world because he was a character among characters and the international press was always looking for a lively story. I hope this helps you. But, now I'm wondering, according your research could this be "the" Polly?"

Now, THAT story I like! It has real atmosphere and the ring of authenticity.


23 Apr 06 - 09:07 PM (#1725689)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Ebbie

Interesting story, Little Hawk. The Princess Sofia (pronounced so- FYE-ah, by the way) is still very much in the memories of Juneau people. The ship hung up on Vanderbilt Reef not far offshore, and the only survivor was a dog. Juneau people have told and retold the story of small boats going out and collecting bodies for several days.

A musician friend - Paul Zahasky - recently wrote a very good song about the catastrophe told from the POV of two of its passengers, Walter Harper, aged 23, and his bride Frances. They were on their honeymoon having been married the month before. They lie side by side in our cemetery.

Walter Harper, interestingly, was in the party that first summitted Mt. McKinley five years before. In 1913, the Reverend Stuck was the first leader to make it to the top of the mountain (the tallest in North America), although it had been attempted often since Judge James Wickersham and his party had first tried it in 1903.

I like the addition of Polly to the lore.


23 Apr 06 - 10:00 PM (#1725721)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

The Yukon story is a good one, but the 1883 "Polly wants a cracker" in "Treasure Island is earlier.
Is there still an earlier citation?

The Canadian Pacific Princess Sophia was a passenger steamer, 1912 to its loss in 1918. The ship struck the reef on the 24th at 2:00 AM. A number of boats in the Lynn Canal ports and area came to help, but Captain Locke thought that the ship was safely wedged on the reef and decided to postpone off-loading for better weather. The ship was on the reef for a day and a half before the storm renewed in force. The craft who came to help scurried to safety. The next morning the Sophia was gone.
An interesting book on the sinking is by Ken Coates and Bill Morrison, 1990, "The Sinking of the Princess Sophia," Oxford Univ. Press (Toronto), 224 pp. Also 1991, University of Alaska Press, 220 pp.


23 Apr 06 - 10:12 PM (#1725731)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Ebbie

The conjecture was that the Captain was concerned with what the owners would think if he left the Sofia and salvers eventually got the ship.

A local woman wrote a play - actually a reading - where the dead meet and argue the points of what actually happened and who was to blame. No one really knows the actual end- as Q said, the next morning when the would-be rescue boats returned the ship was gone, the only thing visible its mast pointing up out of the water.

"Hold tightly, my darling, hold tight"


24 Apr 06 - 12:45 AM (#1725777)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Little Hawk

Well, I'd say what happened is the wind and waves pushed her off the reef. In the process the bottom got a lot of holes in it, so the ship very quickly sank once free of the reef. What a miserable fate for all those poor people. Sinking in frigid waters at night in a storm is not a nice way to go.


24 Apr 06 - 02:34 AM (#1725797)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Ebbie

What happened, in that sense, Little Hawk, is well known. I meant, it is not known what reasoning went into the decision ot ride it out. We know only what the captain said when he refused help.

The captain thought that when the tide came in it would lift the ship off. But it had holed on the rock and the storm coupled with the tide lifted it off.

I agree, you have to accept that most of the people had not slept a wink before the ship foundered. There had been plenty of boats there to take off the passengers- but it was not to be.


24 Apr 06 - 07:37 PM (#1726451)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Joybell

Polly is the parrot's name (or maybe its generic title) in several versions of "Lady Isabel and the False Knight." It's also "Isabel's" name in some.

"Don't prittle don't prattle my pretty pretty Polly. (?polly)
Don't tell no tales on me."

Have to look it up for the earliest date.
No cracker here, I realize.
Cheers, Joy


24 Apr 06 - 07:45 PM (#1726456)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Azizi

Does anyone else remember this song that was used in advertisements for {I think it was} children's shoes?

Pol parrot,
Pol parrot,
they're the shoes you want to buy.
They'll make your feet run faster
as fast as poll can fly.

-snip-

I would date this from the mid to late 1950s. I hadn't thought of that song in years, but this thread made it pop into my mind.

It's your fault, Little Hawk!


24 Apr 06 - 08:23 PM (#1726483)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Little Hawk

Ah, yes...another thing I will be hauled out on the carpet for when I finally meet my maker... ;-P


24 Apr 06 - 09:04 PM (#1726513)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Ron Davies

Interesting coincidence. Just watching Disney's Alladin over the weekend (the one with all the great impressions of William F Buckley, Ed Sullivan and whole bunch of others by Robin Williams). The sultan's evil advisor has a parrot (named Iago, I think) the sultan is always feeding crackers to. The parrot objects--loudly and often. When the evil advisor gets control of the magic lamp, and thereby takes over the kingdom, the parrot takes delight in stuffing crackers down the sultan's throat.


24 Apr 06 - 09:14 PM (#1726525)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Little Hawk

Poetic justice! All parrots everywhere can identify with that character.


24 Apr 06 - 09:34 PM (#1726542)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Ron Davies

Yup--have to admit it was easy to sympathize with Iago.   ( I think the sultan also insisted on calling him Polly).


24 Apr 06 - 09:47 PM (#1726548)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Paul Parrot shoes hit the market in 1925. In 1947, they sponsored the Howdy Doody Show for a short time. Collectors look for their give-aways and prizes. Buster Brown is the name I remember in children's shoes; I can't recall ever having Poll Parrot.

Joybell, thanks for reminding us of Lady Isabel and the False Knight, I should have remembered- that takes Poll Parrot back a ways.

Canadian Pacific is still a giant of a company, but its passenger steamship heyday started to end around WW2. They had several very posh ships operating in both the Atlantic and Pacific.
I have a fancy art deco brochure for a world cruise offered in 1925-1926, starting in December and ending in April, aboard their "Empress of Scotland," (37,500 tons gross, oil-burning).
The ballroom walls were inlaid satinwood, and its Empire dining room sat 436 at a sitting. Elevators connected the eight decks. The 54 days allowed on shore included the Riviera at the "height of the season" and Cairo for New Year's Eve.


24 Apr 06 - 10:01 PM (#1726556)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Bee-dubya-ell

I don't remember the song, Azizi, but I remember Poll Parrot shoes. I also remember the other big-time children's shoe company, Buster Brown (and his little dog Tige).


24 Apr 06 - 10:08 PM (#1726558)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Azizi

Oh, thanks Bee-dubya-ell. I was beginning to wonder what alternative universe I got that song from if nobody else could remember it.

And, yes I also remember Buster Brown shoes -and Buster's little dog Tige.


25 Apr 06 - 08:01 AM (#1726781)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Mr Fox

I'm not at all sure about the 'Treasure Island' cite. Apart from anything else, the parrot was named Captain Flint, not Polly.


25 Apr 06 - 07:15 PM (#1727420)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Joybell

I love this thread. Who would have thought the phrase could be so elusive.
The Oxford dictionary says:
Poll 1660 (altered f. Moll a familiar equivalent of Mary) Used as the conventional proper name of any parrot: hence = parrot.

It goes on about poll-parrot.

It seems that regardless of the parrots name, in Treasure Island, it could still be called Poll/Polly. Haven't had the time to actually read through and check.

Cracker, as a hard biscuit, dates back to 1739 according to the same dictionary. Chiefly in the US. it also says.

So there we go. Narrowed down a bit but not much.
Cheers, Joy


25 Apr 06 - 09:08 PM (#1727490)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Mr. Fox is correct. I was mislead by website garbage. It has been too many years since I read "Treasure Island." My apologies.


25 Apr 06 - 09:09 PM (#1727492)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Little Hawk

This could be the missing link that explains it ALL! To hell with the Da Vinci Code and the Gospel of Judas! We NEED to find out the origin of the custom of naming parrots "Polly", and we shall not rest until we do.

"Awk!!! Polly wants a cracker!"


25 Apr 06 - 10:00 PM (#1727532)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Q (Frank Staplin)

Gospel of Polly?
Sumer is a-comin in. Loud sing Polly!

Surely not just a nickname or familiar name for Mary and Paula.


26 Apr 06 - 09:12 AM (#1727812)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Mr Fox

According to the online dictionary a 'poll-parrot' is a tame parrot...

Oh, and the parrot in the 'Swallows and Amazons' books WAS named Polly (despite the fact it was a male).


26 Apr 06 - 07:39 PM (#1728357)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: GUEST

The Norwegian Blue's got beautiful plummage.


26 Apr 06 - 07:56 PM (#1728367)
Subject: RE: BS: origin of 'Polly Want a Cracker?'
From: Little Hawk

Yes, but they tend to pine a lot. For the fiords, you know.