Created By: KevinKlawitter on October 28, 2012 Last Edited By: Tallens on September 28, 2013
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Silent Whisper

A character whispers something to another, inaudibly to the audience

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In real life, when a person has something private to say to somebody else, they tend to whisper it to them, to make it more difficult for the other person to hear.

In fiction, however, all dialogue is usually completely audible to the audience. That makes the few times when we don't know exactly what a person is saying all the more intriguing. As a result, an artist will sometimes use a whisper to add an element of mystery or ambiguity to a series. For this and other reasons, this trope is usually implemented near the end of a work.

Sometimes used as an Unreveal (when left ambiguous), other times as a Chekov's Gun. Other times it beings as an unreveal, and becomes a Chekov's Gun.

Contrast Stage Whisper, which is clearly audible to the audience but not other characters.

Anime and Manga
  • In Code Geass, CC's true name.
  • In "The Real Folk Blues, Part 1" of Cowboy Bebop, Julia whispers something at Spike. We never find out what she said until the end of the next episode.
  • Subverted in Digimon Tamers episode 14: "Grow Mon Grow". When Terriermon whispers to Henry, the words are actually intelligible to the audience before Henry repeats them aloud to Takato.
  • Practically Once an Episode on Detective Conan, at the point where Conan figures out the crime and just wants confirmation before the big reveal.

Comic Books

Film
  • Near the end of Arbitage, the main character whispers something to his daughter that we never hear. This was an improvisation by Richard Gere.
  • Also, possibly referencing Lost in Translation (See below), in The Avengers, Scarlett Johansson whispers something to Jeremy Renner's character right before Loki is sent back from whence he came.
  • At the end of Lost in Translation, Bill Murray's character whispers something to Scarlett Johansson just before he leaves Toyko.
  • In Donnie Darko, Donnie walks up to Roberto Sparrow and she stands on tiptoe to whisper, "Everything on this earth dies alone." Donnie's dad asks what she said and the scene cuts without revealing (until later). New viewers will almost always ask prior viewers what she said.
  • In Not Another Teen Movie, Austin whispers into Janey's ear, causing Jake to launch into a hysterical confession. Austin then explains to Jake that what he actually whispered into Janie's ear was that Jake was about to launch into a hysterical confession, thus reaffirming everything he just whispered into her ear.
  • In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country right after the bodies of Chancellor Gorkon's killers are found, Kirk takes Spock aside and they have an inaudible conversation. At the end Spock says, "Possible." It turned out to be an idea to lure the killers' killer out.

Literature
  • In Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn, Lucky and Wess take a moment to speak privately to one another by using ordinary sound waves, conducted through their spacesuits, so there is no risk of being spied upon. The narrator never tells us what Lucky says, but it becomes clear it has to do with the elaborate deception that Lucky pulls on everyone except Wess later in the book.
  • In Wolves of the Calla, we're never told exactly what the 19-word sentence told to Eddie by the old man was, but we get the gist of it by the book's climax.

Live-Action TV
  • Babylon 5
    • In the episode "Interludes and Examinations", Morden whispers various things to different people in league with him on the station. We don't hear what's said, but the context of things that happen next tells us enough—so it's probably simply a device to indicate how covertly he must operate on the station at that point, since he's a recognized persona non grata there.
    • * In "Day of the Dead" Penn & Teller guest star as comedy Duo Reebo and Zooty. Zooty, Teller's character, always speaks through this little device and even his partner has only heard him actually speak once (he said, "Why?"). In the very last scene, Zooty comes up to Sheridan and whispers in his ear, pointing to his hat. Afterwards, G'Kar asks what he said. The answer: "Because it tells me to."
  • Raj Koothrappali does this into Howard's ear on The Big Bang Theory every time he wants to talk but there's a woman in the room and he's not drunk. Howard translates.
  • Community has Troy do this to Abed when he leaves for air-conditioning repair school. When the rest of the group asks what he said, Abed tells them that Troy said, I know you hate when people do this in movies.
  • In the Doctor Who episode where we first meet River Song, she whispers in The Doctor's ear and he says that she told him his real name even though he'd never met her before. In the series six finale, he then whispers something to her past self. It's later revealed that he didn't actually whisper his name, but for her to look in his eye.
  • One episode of Legend of the Seeker had the Mord'Sith Cara trying to persuade a thief to come with them. She offers to do something which she whispers in his ear, causing him to become very excited.
  • Just before Alice is Put on a Bus in Season 2, Episode 2 of Luther, she kisses Luther's cheek and whispers something to him.
  • In the Season 1 Finale of The Walking Dead, Dr. Jenner whispers something into Rick's ear. What he said wasn't revealed until the finale of Season 2.
  • The Twilight Zone (1985-1989). In the episode "Need to Know", hearing a certain phrase causes the listener to go insane. At the very end one of the two protagonists whispers the phrase in her partner's ear and drives him mad.
  • Parodied on Community when Abed starts whispering his plan to his friends, the camera pans away, and Jeff pulls it back reminding Abed that he can't just pretend to say something and expect a whipcut to the enacted plan.

Theatre
  • In the play (and later movie) The Shape of Things, Adam and Evelyn whisper to each other in bed. Later when he discovers she's been videoing him for a class project, that is the only part of their relationship that remains private. The play ends with him watching that section over and over.

Video Games
  • In Heavy Rain, Ann whispers the name of her son into Madison's ear. It's significant because her son happens to be the Origami Killer; the player doesn't learn his name for a few more scenes.
  • Knights of the Old Republic: Saul Karath in his last moments, whispers The Reveal to Carth Onasi in this manner. Carth doesn't take it well.

Web Original
  • In The Cat in the Hat review, The Nostalgia Critic suggests to Satan a torture for Mr. Soulless by whispering in his ear.
    Satan: You want me to do what with a fork? (Critic whispers some more) I like the way you think!

Western Animation
  • In the Simpsons episode parodying 24, Skinner recruits Bart to spy on his behalf. Bart will only participate if Skinner will tell him a swear word he doesn't already know. Skinner whispers it to Bart (we never hear it).
    Bart: Wow, that's a swear?
    Skinner: Used as a noun, it is.


Community Feedback Replies: 57
  • October 28, 2012
    DRCEQ
    In "The Real Folk Blues, Part 1" of Cowboy Bebop, Julia whispers something at Spike. We never find out what she said until the end of the next episode.
  • October 29, 2012
    lexicon
    Bob whispering is like Bob siting on a chair.
  • October 29, 2012
    KTera
    • In Heavy Rain, Ann whispers the name of her son into Madison's ear. It's significant because her son happens to be the Origami Killer; the player doesn't learn his name for a few more scenes.
  • October 29, 2012
    KevinKlawitter
    @lexicon:

    Nice try, but no.
  • October 29, 2012
    mythbuster
    In Code Geass, CC's true name.
  • October 30, 2012
    Generality
    Contrast Stage Whisper, which is clearly audible to the audience but not other characters.
  • November 2, 2012
    CrankyStorming
    In the Doctor Who episode where we first meet River Song, she whispers in The Doctor's ear and he says that she told him his real name even though he'd never met her before. In the series six finale, he then whispers it to her past self.
  • November 2, 2012
    spyergirl4
    • Raj Koothrappali does this into Howard's ear on The Big Bang Theory every time he wants to talk but there's a woman in the room and he's not drunk. Howard translates.
  • November 2, 2012
    Tallens
    • One episode of Legend Of The Seeker had the Mord'SithCara trying to persuade a thief to come with them. She offers to so something which she whispers in his ear, causing him to become very excited.

    • In Star Trek VI The Undiscovered Country right after the bodies of Chancellor Gorkon's killers are found, Kirk takes Spock aside and they have an inaudible conversation. At the end Spock says, "Possible." It turned out to be an idea to lure the killers' killer out.
  • November 3, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh

  • November 3, 2012
    Tallens
    Made a couple of formatting corrections to the Legend of the Seeker example.
  • November 3, 2012
    Duncan
    In the play (and later movie) The Shape Of Things, Adam and Evelyn whisper to each other in bed. Later when he discovers she's been videoing him for a class project, that is the only part of their relationship that remains private. The play ends with him watching that section over and over.
  • November 3, 2012
    Riddler
    Community has Troy do this to Abed when he leaves for air-conditioning repair school. When the rest of the group asks what he said, Abed tells them that Troy said, [[Spoiler: I know you hate when people do this in movies]]
  • November 5, 2012
    Chabal2
    The Punisher: Bullseye whispers something to Frank as they fight. Frank's reaction implies Bullseye was spot on in guessing what the last thing Frank's wife ever said to him was.
  • November 7, 2012
    0blivionmobile
    Knights Of The Old Republic: Saul Karath in his last moments, whispers The Reveal to Carth Onasi in this manner. Carth doesn't take it well.
  • November 20, 2012
    Lophotrochozoa
    Is the Chekovrolling deliberate?
  • November 21, 2012
    Tuomas
  • November 21, 2012
    bmcgregor
    In Not Another Teen Movie, Austin whispers into Janey's ear, causing Jake to launch into a hysterical confession. Austin then explains to Jake that what he actually whispered into Janie's ear was that Jake was about to launch into a hysterical confession, thus reaffirming everything he just whispered into her ear.
  • November 21, 2012
    WeAreAllKosh
    In the Babylon 5 episode "Interludes and Examinations", Morden whispers various things to different people in league with him on the station. We don't hear what's said, but the context of things that happen next tells us enough--so it's probably simply a device to indicate how covertly he must operate on the station at that point, since he's a recognized persona non grata there.
  • November 27, 2012
    Tallens
    Another from Babylon 5:
    • In "Day of the Dead" Penn And Teller guest start as comedy Duo Reebo and Zooty. Zooty, Teller's character, always speaks through this little device and even his partner has only heard him actually speak once (he said, "Why?"). In the very last scene, Zooty comes up to Sheridan and whispers in his ear, pointing to his hat. Afterwards, G'Kar asks what he said. The answer: "Because it tells me to."
  • December 1, 2012
    lakingsif
    "In the Doctor Who episode where we first meet River Song, she whispers in The Doctor's ear and he says that she told him his real name even though he'd never met her before. In the series six finale, he then whispers it to her past self." ^ You should add that it's revealed later in that episode that he didn't actually whisper his name, but for her to look in his eye.
  • December 1, 2012
    lakingsif
    Also, possibly referencing Lost In Translation, in Avengers Assemble Scarlett Johansson whispers something to Jeremy Renner's character right before Loki is sent back from whence he came.

    More as a reference, I think Loki also whispers to Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson) but I'm not sure.
  • December 7, 2012
    Lomerell
    In Donnie Darko, subtitles are omitted when Donnie walks up to Roberto Sparrow and she stands on tiptoe to whisper, "Everything on this earth dies alone." Donnie's dad asks what she said and the scene cuts without revealing (until later). New viewers will almost always ask prior viewers what she said.

  • December 7, 2012
    Lomerell
    Does this trope imply that even subtitles are withheld? Because that's something I have great appreciation for when I find it, which is why I previously posted the Donnie Darko comment on a subtitle trope. Is that the same as this or a different thing altogether?

    The trope description does not say, but there's a marked difference in a whisper you can subtitle and one you can't.
  • December 7, 2012
    Tallens
    The gist is that you don't know what's being said, so yes, that would preclude subtitles.
  • December 7, 2012
    Lomerell
    Preclude: Prevent/make impossible? http://www.thefreedictionary.com/preclude

  • December 8, 2012
    lakingsif
    ^ or just not include. As in, things without subtitles are fine because the point is that you don't know what's being said, and subtitles would tell you.
  • December 8, 2012
    rodneyAnonymous
    It doesn't mean that. "Include" or "exclude"?

    I agree that the second-to-last sentence of the description ("In most cases, optional subtitles are omitted as well.") is irrelevant, and should be changed to "many cases" or removed completely.
  • December 22, 2012
    Tallens
    22 examples up there so far.
  • December 23, 2012
    randomsurfer
    In the Simpsons episode parodying 24, Skinner recruits Bart to spy on his behalf. Bart will only participate if Skinner will tell him a swear word he doesn't already know. Skinner whispers it to Bart (we never hear it).
    Bart: Wow, that's a swear?
    Skinner: Used as a noun, it is.
  • January 31, 2013
    Tallens
    bump.
  • February 27, 2013
    grenekni3t
    • In Lucky Starr and the Rings of Saturn, Lucky and Wess take a moment to speak privately to one another by using ordinary sound waves, conducted through their spacesuits, so there is no risk of being spied upon. The narrator never tells us what Lucky says, but it becomes clear it has to do with the elaborate deception that Lucky pulls on everyone except Wess later in the book.
  • May 4, 2013
    Tallens
    IS anyone still looking after this?
  • May 5, 2013
    Arivne
    The OP Kevin Klawitter last edited the OP on February 27th, so this is officially Up For Grabs and can be launched by anyone.
  • May 5, 2013
    Tallens
    OK, then. Looks to me like it's pretty much ready to go.
  • May 5, 2013
    Tallens
    Except for a couple of things. Could we get some more context on the Code Geass example?
  • May 5, 2013
    KevinKlawitter
    I'm glad to see people are still looking after this.
  • May 14, 2013
    Tallens
    Is anyone going to launch this?
  • May 14, 2013
    Rognik
    Practically Once An Episode on Detective Conan, at the point where Conan figures out the crime and just wants confirmation before the big reveal.
  • May 14, 2013
    surgoshan
    • Parodied on Community when Abed starts whispering his plan to his friends, the camera pans away, and Jeff pulls it back reminding Abed that he can't just pretend to say something and expect a whipcut to the enacted plan.
  • May 18, 2013
    Tallens
  • May 18, 2013
    DracMonster
    Inaudible Whisper might be a better title. To cover when the audience hears "pss pss pss" or somesuch.
  • May 18, 2013
    UltramarineAlizarin
    Anime and Manga
    • Subverted in Digimon Tamers episode 14: "Grow Mon Grow". When Terriermon whispers to Henry, the words are actually intelligible to the audience before Henry repeats them aloud to Takato.
  • May 19, 2013
    Arivne
    Live Action TV
    • The Twilight Zone (1985-1989). In the episode "Need to Know", hearing a certain phrase causes the listener to go insane. At the very end one of the two protagonists whispers the phrase in her partner's ear and drives him mad.
  • August 4, 2013
    Tallens
    C'mon!
  • August 4, 2013
    Larkmarn
  • August 4, 2013
    DAN004
    Add some more examples above and then launch plz.
  • August 21, 2013
    Tallens
    • In The Cat In The Hat review, The Nostalgia Critic suggests to Satan a torture for Mr. Soulless by whispering in his ear.
      Satan: You want me to do what with a fork? (Critic whispers some more) I like the way you think!
  • August 21, 2013
    Stratadrake
    No launching until we fix the title; please do not Spell My Trope With A The.
  • August 21, 2013
    Tallens
    Why? There's nothing against it in Naming A Trope.
  • August 21, 2013
    DAN004
    Spell My Trope With A The is not even something.
  • August 21, 2013
    randomsurfer
    In Spider Man: One More Day Mary Jane agrees to Mephisto's terms for the Deal With The Devil but quietly whispers something to him before the deal is finalized. We find out what it was she said three years later (real time) in One Moment In Time.
  • August 21, 2013
    Tallens
    Is KevinKlawitter still on here? If not then go ahead and launch this, there's nothing to fix. Other than adding a couple new examples.
  • August 22, 2013
    Arivne
    I support removing the "The" from the name as well.
  • September 27, 2013
    Tallens
    Ok, I'm going to add the loose examples up there, and if there are no objections, I'll launch it over the weekend.
  • September 28, 2013
    Tallens
    Last call. Speak now or forever hold your peace.
  • September 28, 2013
    m8e
    ^Remove the The.
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