Where the Phrase “Polly Wants a Cracker” Came From

Daven Hiskey 8

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Nabisco originally released the saltine cracker in 1876.  Their slogan for this new type of cracker was “Polly wants a cracker?”, which is where that saying came from. Saltine crackers were mildly successful after being released, but received a huge boost in popularity thanks to the Great Depression.  Saltines were a nice cheap, tasty filler to add to other foods such as watery soup, to make the meal more filling.

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  1. Bill February 21, 2011 at 7:04 pm - Reply

    Hello… Who was Polly? You explained the cracker part, but what about Polly???

    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven February 21, 2011 at 10:54 pm - Reply

      @Bill: Presumably a parrot, though I couldn’t verify that anywhere.

  2. bill February 26, 2011 at 6:36 pm - Reply

    I wondered about this phrase a while back and tracked down the word “Polly” to the OED…. According to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED), Polly is a diminutive of Poll “as a female name, and name for a parrot,” and Poll, altered from Moll, familiar form of Mary, is the traditional name for any parrot.

    Probably the phrase came from people asking their parrot if it wanted a cracker, and then the parrot mimicking the words back in ‘parrot speak’.

    sounds plausible…?

  3. Martin November 3, 2014 at 8:28 pm - Reply

    except that this image dates from 1838, which may debunk that myth somewhat…


    • Daven Hiskey
      Daven Hiskey November 3, 2014 at 8:32 pm - Reply

      @Martin: Interesting. What is the source of that image specifically? If it truly predates it then Nabisco perhaps simply borrowed it for their ad campaigns, whether knowingly or not.

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