Chinese Parrot Joke

--Informant Info--
Nationality: Taiwanese
Age: 68
Occupation: Retired
Residence: Taipei, Taiwan
Date of Performance/Collection: March 15, 2012
Primary Language: Chinese
Other Language(s): Taiwanese, Japanese

(Translated from Chinese)  The owner of a local store trained his pet parrot to say, ‘Welcome!’ whenever somebody entered the store and then, ‘Thanks for visiting!’ whenever somebody left the store.  One day, a little boy entered the store and heard the parrot say ‘Welcome!’  Hearing this, the boy was so taken aback that he took a step back out of the shop which then caused the parrot to screech, ‘Thanks for visiting.’  The boy thought that it was so funny that he began to step in and out of the store really quickly causing the bird to yell out, ‘Welcome! Thanks for visiting! Welcome! Thanks for visiting!’ over and over again.  Eventually, the bird got really agitated and yelled out really loudly to everyone in the shop, ‘Boss, somebody is playing with your bird!

The punchline of this joke can be found in the last phrase that is said by the parrot.  In Chinese, the word for bird (鸟) is also slang for the word penis.  Therefore, the phrase can also be translated to, “Boss, somebody is playing with your penis.”  This double meaning makes the joke funny as the parrot is publicly declaring that the shop owner is engaged in a sexual activity to all the people nearby.

My informant told me this joke when the two of us saw a talking parrot in a pet shop and it reminded her of this. She told me that her father, the owner of a small shop, had told her this story when she was little.  When she first heard it as a child, she did not understand that bird also meant penis.  Instead, she found humor in that the bird reacted to the little boy’s actions rather than the phrase said by the parrot.  As an adult, she finally understood the true meaning of the joke.  To me, I think it’s a reflection of a taboo that has been placed on sex in Asian society.  My reason for this is that people find this joke funny because the bird made such a declaration.  This implies that sex is not something that should be talked about publicly or out loud.