In Skin Game, Harry performs multiple parkour moves while shouting "Parkour!", which sounds like a reference to The Office episode "Gossip" where the characters jumped around their office, shouting "Parkour!" before attempting stunts.

How did Harry see or hear about The Office, or even parkour in general? His destructive effect on technology precludes his keeping a TV or computer. He has very little or no knowledge of the Internet - IIRC he had never heard of eBay at one point. In addition, as of the start of Skin Game

Harry had spent a year on Demonreach, isolated from his friends by Mab; before that, he spent several months in Mab's "physical therapy" in Faerie for Cold Days, and before that he was "MOSTLY dead" for six months in Ghost Story.

He couldn't have picked up pop culture through social contact during any of that.

Most of Harry's references are to well-known older works, like Star Wars and Looney Tunes, that he could have heard about from friends or watched when younger and less likely to fry the theater. The Office and parkour as a popular phenomenon are newer and less well-known off the Internet (especially for parkour).

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    I don't watch The Office and yet my friends have told me about some of their antics. Yes, Harry is friend-deprived but he has one or two that might have let him know about such things. He could have also read a newspaper's entertainment section and learned of it that way. As for the ability to DO parkour, it is certain not a new sport 20+ years, its just new to people who didn't know about it... It has been around long enough for Harry to have heard it or even seen it being done in movies. Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 1:11
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    I would add that (prior to his isolation mentioned), Harry regularly hung out with a group of super nerdy college student werewolves. They even played Totally-Not-Dungeons-And-Dragons together. If nothing else, Harry can get up-to-date pop culture from the Alphas.
    – Brian S
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 14:05
  • I think he gains knowledge like that same way Anastasia Luccio knows about computer databases... It's a skill called "reading". BTW. You know Dresden references "Phantom Menace" at least once? Or "The Matrix"? Or - quite often once - the "Pirates of the Carribean"? Can't explain that with "well-known older works", can you?
    – AcePL
    Commented Dec 21, 2015 at 16:41
  • I used to watch a group of guys practicing parkour out of my office window. They'd fall down a lot.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 30, 2019 at 6:31

7 Answers 7


Parkour and The Office are general knowledge.

This doesn't mean everyone knows about it, but that it shouldn't ever be surprising someone is aware of a general knowledge topic without special training or study: it's the kind of thing we just pick up through passive exposure to our cultural environment.

Parkour has been in the public eye a lot longer than The Office, and in much more visible arenas. As the Wiki link you provide points out, parkour is more than 25 years old and has enjoyed a notable media presence for at least 15 years. The opportunities for Harry to pick up on it are vastly broader than a single cult TV show. The "Popular Culture" entry in that Wiki article mentions that parkour is showcased in a Bond film and the Bourne franchise, which are major "common culture" topics off the Internet as well as on (and the kind of thing Harry could --and probably would-- see in a drive-in movie).

Thus parkour is nigh ubiquitous: you can read about parkour in newspaper reviews of films (it's likely Harry would read reviews of films he thinks he'd like, even if he can't see them until they're released in drive-in theatres) and in articles about its use in military training.

Such a wide range of exposure in extremely varied contexts means parkour is liable to come up in casual conversation with just about anybody, regardless of their interests. All it takes is someone in a coffee shop striking up a conversation about movies with Harry, or a chat about martial training with Kincaid. It's definitely the kind of thing the Alphas would've mentioned during a Game Night; that time frame is right around the time movies were first picking up on parkour.

As for the supposed Office reference--well, setting aside the fact that Harry does have a tendency to shout random stuff during high-stress moments, The Office is not a purely Internet phenomenon and that episode is five years old. Everything I've said above about parkour being general knowledge also applies to The Office, a show with noticeable real-world cultural impact. The episode in question doesn't seem to fall within the "out of touch" part of Harry's timeline, so that's not relevant at all. Maybe Harry's a Reliant K. fan, or a Chicago newspaper ran a Lifestyle section article about an extremely popular TV show some time in the five years since that episode aired.

Harry's possible points of contact for both parkour and The Office aren't anywhere near so narrow as the question assumes--in fact, his exposure to general knowledge about popular culture is hardly impaired at all despite it being hard for him to see some of the primary sources.

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    Ah, but do they shout 'parkour!' while doing parkour or is that exclusively a "The Office" meme?
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 0:05
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    @dvk - I've seen entire films devoted to parkour (Banlieu B13 springs to mind). What distinguishes this trope is the shouting of the word itself.
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 7:30
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    @Nathan, I suspect Harry would have much less trouble watching theater releases of movies (as opposed to TV shows), as all the relevant technology is pretty far away from his seat. The trouble then becomes sneaking into the theater, since he's perpetually broke and bad at veils. :)
    – Brian S
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 14:09
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    @BrianS I've just read Ghost Stories again, which reveals how Harry sees modern movies. He specifically says he can't go to a normal theater, but instead finds one of the few remaining drive-ins. He can't see The Office there, but this answer is good enough for that - he got it from friends, read about it in a newspaper, or possibly saw a theatrical re-production. :)
    – Nathan
    Commented Nov 4, 2014 at 20:26
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    I have been aware of this trope for years, but only this moment earned it was from The Office. Pop culture can seep in from anywhere. Commented Jul 21, 2021 at 0:20

Moreover, to add to BESW's answer, Parkour is NOT a TV or Internet phenomenon. It's a real life thing practiced by many people. It's not out of impossible that a person who doesn't watch TV still knows what it is, from their social exposure (you know, that big white space outside your apartment? it's filled with PEOPLE! ;)

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    I think you and BESW are missing my point entirely. Dresden as far as I can tell effectively cannot watch movies and TV anymore, since before Storm Front. In addition, his friend circle does not seem the sort to know of and share this knowledge with him, except for perhaps the Alphas, and he's been out of contact with them for over two years, as I mentioned in my question!
    – Nathan
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 3:08
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    I also don't appreciate your condescension, and it's misleading. I practiced parkour for a few years. I learned about it on the Internet. If I hadn't learned about it on the Internet, I wouldn't have searched out a group to practice it with. Yes, it's been around for years, but without exposure to the Internet or being in the right social circle, it's not difficult to miss.
    – Nathan
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 3:13
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    @dvk - Is the shouting of "parkour" also a part of the usual practice of parkour?
    – Valorum
    Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 7:32
  • @Richard - I've seen many real people shout it. (mostly as a meme, NOT as part of serious practice) - similarly to how way back people would shout "kiyaaah" when doing some martial arts move (I've also never watched The Office). Perhaps I'm hanging out among some weird crowd. Commented Oct 29, 2014 at 10:49

You're incorrectly assuming that kowledge can be gained from TV or internet only. Witness this exchange from Small Favor:

"Ivy is the Archive," I said quietly. "A long time ago-we don't know when-somebody-we don't know who-created the Archive. A kind of intellectual construct."

"What?" Sanya asked.

"A kind of entity composed of pure information. Think of it as software for the brain," Luccio said. "Like a very advanced database management system."

"Ah," Sanya said, nodding.

I arched an eyebrow at Luccio in surprise.

She shrugged, smiling a little. "I like computers. I read all about them. It's...my hobby, really. I understand the theory behind them."

So the implication is that since wizard can't work with electronics they have to go to second-best source of information after The Internet: periodicals and books. And it's not unreasonable to assume that wizards read A LOT - can't have TV or radio, can't have computers... and they sometimes have A LOT of free time on their hands. And not all of them have a company... for cold autumn/winter evenings... Witness below exchange from Proven Guilty

His phone buzzed again. He stepped away and spoke quietly, his back to us. After a moment he snapped his fingers and said, "Glau, get on the computer. The auction is closing in five minutes and there's always a last-second rush. We'll need to verify an account." He turned back to the phone. "No, unacceptable. A numbered account only. I don't trust those people at PayPal."

"Hey!" I protested. "Are you selling me on eBay?"

Crane winked at me. "Ironic, eh? Though I confess a bit of surprise. How do you know what it is?"

"I read," I told him.

That Harry actually know what is he talking about, see below quote (and last words specifically), again from Proven Guilty and same chapter:

It came down to this: If I didn't hear her out and didn't get out of this mess, Rawlins's blood would be on my hands. And whoever was behind the slaughter around the convention might well keep right on escalating. More people could die.

Oh. And I'd wind up enjoying some kind of Torquemada-esque vacation with whichever fiend had the most money and the least lag.

Internet Revolution was not instant. I remember very well that for quite a while quite a few periodicals made very good money off of every kind of guide to electronics, software and computers in general. It's only recently (several years, I mean) that most content is now if not online exclusive, then at least available there, too...

Also, a quick internet search revealed that in US alone there were at least three magazines about parkour, going as far back as 2005 and still in business in 2008. Parkour itself is even older - i just read the article about it written in 2002...

  • This is a really good answer Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 14:28

Another theory, which I was recently exposed to here is that Harry is not making a reference to The Office, but rather using the word as his "focus" for a spell to increase his athleticism briefly.

Her power as written in the comics is just ridiculous, which is why I nerf it hard in my own settings. I basically treat her style of spellcasting as the equivalent of magic in the Dresden Files setting. There, magic words basically exist as degree of separation from a Wizard's magic and their mind. Wizard's choose a secondary language to cast spells rather than the language they "think" in, so that they don't accidentally call forth their magic using normal language. So when Harry uses "Fuego" to cast a fire spell, it's so that he doesn't accidentally conjure flame every time he says the word "fire".

So this brings up one of my pet theories for the series. In the later books is parkour a magic word that focuses his mind towards incredible acts of acrobatics?

“Did you shout 'Parkour'?" Michael asked.
"Well, sure," I said. "That was kinda Parkour-like."
Michael fought to keep a smile off his face. "Harry," he said, "I'm almost certain one does not shout 'Parkour.' I believe one is supposed to simply do Parkour."
"Do I criticize your Latin battle cries? No, never once.”

― Jim Butcher, Skin Game

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    I love that exchange between Michael and Harry. It's one of the first normal exchanges between them since Changes. Commented Mar 5, 2021 at 14:52


The Parkour episode of The Office aired in 2009. I could imagine that show being popular in the Carpenter household since it's edgy but not inappropriate for children. Harry spent huge amounts of time with Molly, and her attendance at Splattercon shows her interest in pop culture. I imagine Molly shared memes with Harry over the course of her training.


You overestimate how inaccessible certain technology is to Harry. Computers are a no-go, but a simple monitor/television is not likely to fail just because Harry is in visual range (maybe comparable to his car). Since the more delicate the equipment, the easier it breaks down due to magic, a simple CRT TV should work, while a fancy LED screen might not. So while he does not seem to keep one himself, it is nothing he would avoid. He even talks about going to drive-in cinemas.

As an example for this, he is watching an enemy on security screens at the police station in Fool Moon.


So 10 years ago or more there was an issue of Amazing Spider-Man, first appearance of Screwball, a thrillseeker who had a livecam show. And she evaded Spider-Man by doing parkour all over the city... and I'm pretty sure she actually yelled it at once. I think it's entirely reasonable that a geek like Dresden would have read that issue, remembered it while training on the island, and yelled "PARKOUR!" while doing it just for laughs. And then liked it because hey, a year alone on an island can make you more than a little lonely and desperate for the sound of a human voice, even if it's your own.

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    This is extremely speculative and such a wild stab in the dark. Do you have any evidence whatsoever that this is indeed the case? In fact, even if you edited in the panel/s from the comic to back this up this would at least improve the answer a bit.
    – TheLethalCarrot
    Commented Apr 26, 2021 at 8:01

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