Duolingo's Cute Owl Mascot Is a Ruthless, Terrifying Sociopath with Nothing to Lose

"Beg for your life in Spanish."
Screenshot via Duolingo

Mascots, like anything on the internet, can quickly become mixed up in layers of fan-driven meta-meanings. The Philadelphia Flyers may claim that Gritty simply wants to see the City of Brotherly Love’s NHL team succeed, but he’s clearly also Antifa. Japanese “yuru chara” Nyango Star doesn’t just shred the drums for fun—canonically, the fruit/cat/ghost hybrid was created to draw attention to the apple business in Japan’s Aomori prefecture. The Babadook: a queer icon.


Up next? Duo, the cute little green owl mascot of language-learning app Duolingo.

Duo wants you to learn a new language. Or else.

Duolingo is a pretty straightforward service that offers a free, gamified method of learning a few dozen different languages. Though Duolingo memes have been floating around for a few years now, Duo’s recent, more expressive redesign has lead to a wealth of edited images of the cartoon bird, uh, forcefully prodding you to continue your studies. If you don’t, well, no big deal: You just might regret it for the rest of your life.

The folks over at Duolingo seemed to get in on the joke after they sent out this ominous tweet, which was quickly meme’d.

Eventually, the meme became self-aware: Duolingo put out an April Fools' gag of its own, a rare example of a brand’s attempt to be Funny Online for this terrible holiday that—we hate to say it—actually kind of worked?

I’m sorry, Duo, OK? I’m sorry. I’ll take my French lesson. Please spare my family.

Sign up for our newsletter to get the best of VICE delivered to your inbox daily.

Follow Peter Slattery on Twitter.