A fellow walks into a pet store and asks to buy a canary. The proprietor replies, "I'm fresh out of canaries, but I do have a parakeet." The customer insists on a canary, until the shop owner informs him that a parakeet can be made to sound like a canary if one files the beak just so. "But be careful not to file too much off, or the parakeet will drown when he goes to take a drink of water." The potential customer decides that this is complete nonsense, but thanks the shop owner politely and leaves, sans parakeet.
He goes into another pet shop and asks for a canary -- no luck. "But," says the shop owner, "I do have a parakeet, and if you file the beak just so, it can be made to sound exactly like a canary." He goes on to explain that filing off too much beak will jeopardize the bird's life, due to the potential for drowning when he takes a drink. The fellow finally decides that there must be some merit to these claims and buys the parakeet. "Besides," he thinks to himself, "parakeets are much cheaper."
His next stop is a hardware store, where he wanders into the file section, holding his recently purchased bird. A clerk wanders by and asks if he needs some help. The new bird owner sheepishly explains how he intends to make his parakeet sing like a canary. The clerk knowingly picks up a file and hands it to him. "Here, a Nichols #2 bastard file. But be careful not to file too much off, or the poor beastie might drown." The bird (and file) owner thanks the clerk and leaves for home.
A few weeks later, the guy wanders into the hardware store. The same clerk, recognizing him, asks how he made out with the parakeet. The fellow looks down and sadly reports, "Bird's dead." The clerk offers his condolences and asks, "Filed off too much beak?" To which the former bird owner replies, "Nah, he was dead when I took him out of the vise."