3 Bizarre Ways Animals Have Learned to Speak Like Humans


We've talked before about creepy animals that do human things, seemingly for the explicit purpose of casting doubt on our belief in a sane, non-fractured universe. These three animals taught themselves how to speak, ensuring that you remain troubled for the foreseeable future.

Koshik the Elephant

Koshik is a male Asian elephant living in a South Korean zoo that has learned to mimic the sound of five different Korean words, which are presumably variations of either "Where is my goddamn family?" or "I will kill you all."

3 Bizarre Ways Animals Have Learned to Speak Like Humans
Current Biology, Stoeger et al.

"Why are you filming this?" is another strong possibility.

By placing his trunk in his mouth, Koshik is able to approximate the correct vocalizations. Scientists think he may have taught himself to "speak" in order to bond with his human handlers, since for the first five years of his life, he was the only elephant in the entire zoo and literally had shit else to do with his time. However, while Koshik is able to say the words, he doesn't seem to have any idea what they mean. He just says what he thinks people want to hear without having any idea what the hell he's talking about, which honestly doesn't make him much different from anyone currently on television.

3 Bizarre Ways Animals Have Learned to Speak Like Humans
Kim Jae-Hwan / Getty

We'd rather be stuck in an elevator with this guy than the Situation.

Hoover the Seal

Hoover the seal was the main attraction at the New England Aquarium for several years back in the '70s and '80s, because he could belch out vague English gibberish that sounded like Peter Griffin imploding in a decompression chamber. He was raised for the first part of his life by Bostonian fishermen, and by the time he was brought to the aquarium, he had learned to mimic certain phrases (including his own name) with a thick New England accent. The aquarium's website claims that, in his heyday, Hoover was as well-known a public figure to New Englanders as Ted Kennedy, although the two had a much different relationship with large bodies of water.

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The Boston Globe

"I killed way more people, for instance."

NOC the Whale

NOC, a white beluga whale who was kept at the U.S. National Marine Mammal Foundation in California for several decades, began to mimic the sounds of the divers and biologists around him, presumably because his standard repertoire of clicks and whistles wasn't getting him any closer to the bucket of shrimp and the Men's Health subscription he'd been asking about. He would repeat a handful of different words to try and get some kind of response out of the people holding him captive, but for years nobody seemed to notice. Finally, one of the divers mistook NOC repeating the word "out" for someone on the surface calling for him to get out of the water. Honestly, we feel the fact that the first recorded incident of a whale trying to speak English was of one telling a man to get the hell out of his water tank says pretty much all you need to know about our standing in the animal kingdom.

3 Bizarre Ways Animals Have Learned to Speak Like Humans
Current Biology / U.S. Navy

"Y'know what? Let the door hit your ass on the way out."

Sadly, the effort NOC made only recently came to light after researchers at the foundation examined several old tapes of his "speech" -- NOC himself died five years ago. He only struggled with English for a few short years before giving up and going back to speaking plain old whale, because he quite correctly assumed that unless he made Shamu noises, nobody gave a shit.

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