Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Q&A: Origins of 'cry uncle'

Origins of 'cry uncle'

Why is the wrestling term "cry uncle," and not aunt or anything else?

There is no definitive history on the origin of the phrase, though there is plenty of speculation. The term, which is universally recognized as words that concede defeat (i.e., "I give up"), was traced back to the late 19th century, according to the website worldwidewords.org, and was used as a focal point in a joke.

As the story goes on the website: "A gentleman was boasting that his parrot would repeat anything he told him. For example, he told him several times, before some friends, to say 'Uncle,' but the parrot would not repeat it. In anger he seized the bird, and half-twisting his neck, said: 'Say "uncle," you beggar!' and threw him into the fowl pen, in which he had 10 prize fowls. Shortly afterward, thinking he had killed the parrot, he went to the pen. To his surprise he found nine of the fowls dead on the floor with their necks wrung, and the parrot standing on the 10th, twisting his neck and screaming: 'Say "uncle," you beggar! Say "uncle." '

Later versions started the story by saying "A man whose niece had coaxed him into buying a parrot succeeded in getting a bird that was warranted a good talker."

Another theory was that uncle was the Americanized version of the Irish word anacol, which means protection or safety.

Then there's the Roman Empire version, in which children confronted by bullies would be forced to say Patrue, mi Patruissimo, or "uncle, my best uncle," in order to be freed.

About Megyn Kelly's family life

Who is Fox News' Megyn Kelly married to, and what is his profession?

Kelly married Douglas Brunt on March 1, 2008. Brunt is president and CEO of Authentium, an Internet security firm. They had a son in 2009 and are expecting their second child in April.

Kelly, 30, previously was married to anesthesiologist Daniel Kendall. They divorced in 2006.

Update

In the Feb. 4 Ask the Times column, we introduced you to the four members of the "Never missed a Super Bowl" club. But one of the members took ill and didn't make it to the game, and last week he died.

Robert Cook, 79, of Brown Deer, Wis., watched from his hospital room on Feb. 6, when his Green Bay Packers beat the Pittsburgh Steelers 31-25. He died Feb. 10 from a blood infection.

Correction

An item in the Feb. 14 Ask the Times column incorrectly said Pfc. Bradley Manning is awaiting trial on multiple charges of violating the U.S. Criminal Code. Manning, who is accused of giving classified information to WikiLeaks, has been charged with violations of the Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Q&A: Origins of 'cry uncle' 02/20/11 [Last modified: Sunday, February 20, 2011 3:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Nicholas the Dolphin flipped for 'Old School Republican' Jack Latvala

    Blogs

    Surrounded by several hundred friends and supporters at the Clearwater Marine Aquarium, Republican State Sen. Jack Latvala noted that the only other officially announced Republican for governor (Adam Putnam) kicked off his campaign with a high school marching band. Then Latvala introduced Nicholas the Dolphin, who …

  2. Another local Confederate display sparks division, this one over name of the war

    News

    TAMPA — While the Hillsborough County commission was wrestling over the future of Confederate monument at the county courthouse, a lawsuit has been playing out in court over how best to represent the Civil War across town at Veterans Memorial Park.

    Supporters of a Civil War display at Veterans Memorial Park and Museum had a brochure made to attract donations. They argue in a lawsuit that their efforts were thwarted when the park's executive committee changed their plans.
  3. Iconic Ballet Nacional de Cuba ballet will perform at Straz in May

    News

    Besides fine tobacco, Ballet Nacional de Cuba is considered by many to be the island nation's most distinctive export.

    Ballet Nacional de Cuba, one of the world's premiere ballet companies, will perform at the Straz Center in May.

 [Courtesy of Carlos Quezada]
  4. I-275 south closed in St. Pete heading towards Sunshine Skyway

    Accidents

    ST. PETERSBURG — All southbound lanes of Interstate 275 on the southern tip of Pinellas County were closed Wednesday afternoon due to a traffic crash with injuries, according to the Florida Highway Patrol.

  5. Bucs-Jaguars: Five things to watch Thursday in Jacksonville

    Bucs

    JACKSONVILLE — The Bucs have their second preseason game here Friday against the Jaguars, and here are five things to keep an eye on as Tampa Bay moves closer to paring its roster from 90 players to 53 by Sept. 3.

    1. AVOIDING BIG PLAYS ON DEFENSE

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers quarterback Jameis Winston (3) participates in training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Wednesday, Aug. 2, 2017. LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times