Daily Express, Thursday, November 12, 1903

Poem 38

(Attribution uncertain)



  [The “Express” offer of £25 to the owner of the first parrot able to speak distinctly the ridiculous phrase “Your food will cost you more” has had a depressing effect on The Parrot. 1]


Sad, indeed, the bird’s condition
When he heard that opposition
Parrots might repeat the falsehood
That was all his own before.
For he looked with keen suspicion
On this talking competition
Which implied that simple twaddle
Was “Your food will cost you more.

“Bird,” I said, “the country’s laughing
At your folly, and their chaffing
Must to you be very painful,
As all humour you ignore;
Yet while lie on lie you’re raining,
How can you begin complaining
That we jeer at your suggestion
That ‘Our food will cost us more’?”

And no answer gave the Polly,
Save a glance so melancholy
That I saw he was disheartened,
Less aggressive than before;
And no secret I’m divulging
If I say he will indulge in
Less of his absurd assertions,
Such as “Food will cost you more.

Yet I doubt not on occasion,
When the “stomach tax” evasion
Forms the text for Hugh or Winnie,
Or the Public Orator, 2
That the Parrot, proudly stalking
From seclusion, will be talking
In his false and foolish manner,
Food, dear friends, will cost you more.



The Daily Express reported on 9 November that music-hall comedian Dan Leno, who owned three talking parrots, was trying to teach them to say “Your food will cost you more!”. A day later it had a report about bird dealers in St Martin’s Lane and district who were engaged in a competition to see who could be the first to teach a parrot to repeat the phrase.

On 11 November, the Express announced that it was offering a prize of £25 to the owner of the first parrot able to speak the phrase distinctly and that subsequently a competition would be held at which prizes would be given to owners of the parrots speaking the sentence most distinctly. See poem 40, note 1 for the winner of the £25 prize, and “Screech Day” for Wodehouse’s report on the subsequent competition.


“Hugh” is Lord Hugh Cecil (see poem 04 note 3), “Winnie” is Winston Churchill (see poem 04 note 2), and “the Public Orator” is Lord Rosebery (see poem 14 note 6).