Understanding the Idiom: "strangle the parrot" - Meaning, Origins, and Usage

Idiom language: English
Etymology: From parrot (“(aviation, slang) transponder”). “Parrot” was the British codename for the identification friend or foe system on World War II aircraft which used transponders.

When it comes to idioms, there are countless expressions that can leave non-native speakers scratching their heads. One such idiom is “strangle the parrot.” This phrase may seem strange or even violent at first glance, but it actually has a much more benign meaning.

So whether you’re a language learner looking to expand your vocabulary or simply curious about unusual idiomatic expressions, read on to discover everything you need to know about “strangling the parrot”!

The Origins of “Strangle the Parrot”

To truly understand an idiom, it’s often helpful to delve into its history and etymology. In this case, however, there isn’t much concrete information available about where exactly “strangle the parrot” came from.

Some sources suggest that it may have originated in British English during World War II as slang for silencing radio transmissions. Others speculate that it could be related to cockfighting or other bird-related activities.

Regardless of its origins, what’s important is how people use this expression today – which we’ll explore in more detail below.

Interpretations and Usage

Despite its somewhat gruesome-sounding name, “strangle the parrot” is actually a relatively harmless idiom that typically means something along the lines of “put an end to idle chatter” or “stop talking nonsense.”

For example:

– When my boss started rambling on about his weekend plans during our meeting, I had to remind him to strangle the parrot so we could get back on track.

– If we’re going to finish this project on time, we need to strangle the parrot and focus on what’s important.

Of course, as with any idiom, there may be variations in how people interpret and use “strangle the parrot” depending on their cultural background or personal experiences. Some may see it as a more aggressive way of telling someone to be quiet, while others might view it as a lighthearted way to inject some humor into a conversation.

Ultimately, understanding idioms like “strangle the parrot” requires not only knowledge of its literal meaning but also an appreciation for the nuances of language and culture.

Origins and Historical Context of the Idiom “strangle the parrot”

The phrase “strangle the parrot” is a peculiar idiom that has its roots in history. This expression is often used to describe situations where someone tries to suppress or silence an unpleasant truth or fact. The origins of this phrase are not entirely clear, but it is believed to have originated in England during the 19th century.

During this time, exotic birds such as parrots were popular pets among wealthy families. They were considered a symbol of wealth and status, and many people would go to great lengths to acquire them. However, owning a parrot was not always easy, as these birds could be noisy and disruptive.

It was common practice for owners to cover their bird’s cage with a cloth at night so that they wouldn’t disturb anyone’s sleep. In some cases, however, owners would take more drastic measures by strangling their pet parrots if they became too loud or unruly.

Over time, this practice became associated with suppressing unwanted truths or facts in order to maintain appearances. The phrase “strangle the parrot” came into use as a metaphor for silencing something that might cause embarrassment or shame.

Today, this idiom is still used in various contexts to describe situations where someone tries to hide an uncomfortable truth or avoid facing reality. It serves as a reminder of how language can evolve over time and how our cultural practices can influence the way we communicate.

Usage and Variations of the Idiom “strangle the parrot”

When it comes to idioms, their usage and variations can vary greatly depending on the context in which they are used. The same is true for the idiom “strangle the parrot”. This phrase has been around for quite some time and has evolved over time to take on different meanings in different situations.

Variations of “strangle the parrot”

One variation of this idiom is “choke the chicken”, which means essentially the same thing. Another variation is “kill two birds with one stone”, which refers to accomplishing two tasks at once. These variations all have a similar connotation but are used in slightly different contexts.

Usage of “strangle the parrot”

The most common usage of this idiom is when someone wants to express that they need to stop talking or be quiet about something. It can also be used when someone needs to stop themselves from saying something that might get them into trouble or reveal information they shouldn’t share.

  • “I had to strangle the parrot before I revealed too much about our plans.”
  • “He kept going on and on about his ex-girlfriend, so I had to tell him to strangle the parrot.”

Synonyms, Antonyms, and Cultural Insights for the Idiom “strangle the parrot”


Some common synonyms for “strangle the parrot” include:

  • Killjoy
  • Buzzkill
  • Party pooper
  • Wet blanket
  • Negative Nancy

All of these phrases convey a similar idea to “strangling the parrot,” which is to ruin or dampen someone’s enjoyment or excitement.


If we look at antonyms of “strangle the parrot,” we can find phrases that mean exactly the opposite:

  • Liven up
  • Cheer on
  • Encourage
  • Inspire
  • Uplift

These words all suggest adding energy and enthusiasm rather than taking it away.

Cultural Insights:The origin of this idiom is unclear, but it has been in use since at least the early twentieth century. It is most commonly used in British English but can also be found in other English-speaking countries. The phrase likely refers to a person who kills a party by talking too much or telling inappropriate jokes. Strangling a parrot would certainly put an end to any festive atmosphere!

Practical Exercises for the Idiom “strangle the parrot”

In order to fully grasp the meaning of the idiom “strangle the parrot,” it is important to practice using it in various contexts. The following exercises will help you become more comfortable with incorporating this idiom into your everyday language.

Exercise 1: Conversation Practice

Find a partner and engage in a conversation where you try to use the idiom “strangle the parrot” at least once. This can be done in any context, such as discussing a recent event or sharing personal experiences. Make sure to use proper intonation and emphasis when using the idiom.

Exercise 2: Writing Practice

Write a short paragraph or story that includes the idiom “strangle the parrot.” This can be a fictional piece or based on real-life experiences. Try to incorporate other idioms or phrases into your writing as well, in order to further develop your understanding of English expressions.

Note: Remember that idioms are not always meant to be taken literally, so make sure you understand their intended meaning before using them in conversation or writing.

Common Mistakes to Avoid When Using the Idiom “strangle the parrot”

When using idioms, it is important to understand their meaning and usage. The idiom “strangle the parrot” may seem straightforward, but there are common mistakes that people make when using it.

Avoid Taking It Literally

The first mistake to avoid is taking the idiom literally. Strangling a parrot would be cruel and unnecessary. Instead, this idiom means to stop talking or end a conversation abruptly.

Avoid Using It Inappropriate Situations

The second mistake is using this idiom in inappropriate situations. For example, if someone is sharing important information with you, it would not be appropriate to say “let’s strangle the parrot.” This could come across as rude or dismissive.

  • Instead of using this idiom in serious conversations or professional settings, save it for more casual situations where humor is appropriate.
  • If you are unsure whether or not to use an idiom, err on the side of caution and avoid using it altogether.


  1. Meryl Getline (17 April 2006; updated 18 April 2006), “Ask the captain: ‘Strangle my WHAT?’”, in USA Today?1, McLean, Va.: Gannett Co., >ISSN, >OCLC, archived from the original on 2009-01-23.
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