A Silent Parrot

Puzzle. “I guarantee,” said the pet-shop clerk, “that this parrot will repeat every word it hears.” A customer bought the parrot but found it wouldn’t speak a single word. Nevertheless, the clerk told the truth. Explain.

The official answer:

  • The parrot is deaf.

Indeed, in this case, it is not a lie that the parrot will repeat every word it hears. My students had some other ideas. The following answer differs from the official one by one letter, but the spirit of the solution is the same.

  • The parrot is dead.

Another idea my students had was to introduce a time component.

  • The parrot wasn’t guaranteed to say the lines immediately; it would wait 30 years before repeating any words.
  • The parrot only repeated the words in the customer’s absence.

And a couple of outside-of-the-box answers.

  • The parrot was a toy and did not have a battery in it.
  • The customer mistook the pet-shop owner to say the statement about the parrot when in fact, the parrot was saying it.



  1. Ivan:

    The parrot has a diary where it repeats every word it hears.

  2. Ivan:

    In his “Philosophical investigations” Wittgenstein wrote that “If a lion could speak, we could not understand him”. So, the parrot repeated every single word but not in word form.

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