Douglas Klump: The perimeters of our assignment were described to us with specificity, Mr. Shlubb. We are to deposit our cargo into the body of water which we now overlook. It was likeways made clear to us that any embellishments of said perimeters would not be advisory.
Delusions of Eloquence
I cannot prescribe to such a narrow interpretation of the perimeters which you now invoke, Mr. Klump.
occur when a person tries too hard to sound "educated"
by using Big Words
or carefully chosen phrases but gets it wrong, filling their dialogue with malapropisms
, mispronunciations and mangled grammar. The result is that they sound less
educated and at the same time a pompous and pretentious attention seeker.
In fiction this habit can be used to set up a character as a stuffed shirt who demands respect but is mocked behind his back, or to add charm or humor to a character who would otherwise seem a little flat. Unfortunately it is sometimes a case of Truth in Television
as there really are people who do this.
Note, this trope works better in print. Characters with Delusions of Eloquence are really funny in the comics, where you can look at the talk bubbles and see, in black and white, what they are doing to our mother tongue. In a film, they just come across as two mooks
who talk too much. ("Low-rent thugs with delusions of eloquence
," as Hartigan
This delusion is often associated with a Know-Nothing Know-It-All
or Fake Brits
. Compare Buffy Speak
, where the ideas may be legitimately sophisticated, but the speaker lacks the ability to properly articulate them, and Malaproper
, where the character may misuse words completely by accident. Contrast Spock Speak
and Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness
, where the big words and proper grammar are used correctly, but for differing reasons. See also You Keep Using That Word
, for the most often misused words. When used in written media, this can overlap with Rouge Angles of Satin
. And finally, contrast Sophisticated as Hell
, where the user combines more down-to-earth language with Big Words
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Anime & Manga
- Ranma ˝: Tatewaki Kuno. "The vengeance of heaven is slow but sure...". One of his least head-aching speeches.
- In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the head weasel talks like this. Saying things like "Do you want us to disresemble the place?" and offering to "repose" of Roger.
- Super Mario Bros.: The Movie has henchmen Iggy and Spike use this after they've been evolved into an "advanced" form.
- Leo Gorcey's Slip Mahoney character, in the Bowery Boys movies, was all about this trope.
- Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Are you addressing I?" (Pike could have said "Am I being addressed by you?" - which, while correct, is even more pretentious.)
- Exaggerated in Idiocracy, where the police would recite memorized legalese that is overly formal to make them sound more authoritative. For example, they incessantly refer to everyone as a "particular individual."
- Chance the Gardener in Being There is a man with mild mental delays who can't take care of himself, but he's dressed so well everyone assumes he's rich, and thinks everything he says is a profound statement. Subverted in that Chance himself was just responding in the only way he knew how.
- In the film adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Stefano claims that he wants to "facilitate and remain observatory" while working for Uncle Monty.
- In Good Will Hunting, the scene where Chuckie poses as Will in the job interview.
- In Animal House, Eric Stratton is trying to impress an older woman (who turns out to be the wife of the college's Dean) in the grocery store, as he picks up a large cucumber:
Eric: I think vegetables can be very sensuous, don't you?
Mrs. Wormer: No, vegetables are sensual. People are sensuous.
- In Sexy Beast Don Logan likes to think he's smarter than the protagonists, but his rapid-fire speech is half Cluster F-Bomb and half this, with needless extra words and non-words ("insinuendos") everywhere.
- In Election:
Tracy Flick: What happened at the speeches was an "unconscienceable'' tragedy.
- Edgar Allen Poe's How to Write a Blackwood Article centers around a young woman hoping to learn to write well who's taught the tricks of the trade by an Author Avatar. Naturally, her subsequent story proceeds to horrifically mangle the vocabulary, quotes, and plot devices she was given, implying that Poe's writing wasn't as formulaic as his critics would have you believe.
- Raymond Briggs' character James Bloggs. We first meet him in Gentleman Jim, where he has been a toilet attendant for many years, never moving up in the world because he "lacks enterprise and initiation" and "doesn't have the levels" ('O' and 'A' levels, school certificates or "cerstificates" as James puts it). We see him again in When the Wind Blows, where he and his wife, Hilda, prepare for nuclear war. "It could affect us all, the Ultimate Determent an' that." "I think it's called the Big Bang theory."
- Guido, one of the two good Mooks from Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series.
- Mind you, Guido has an MBA, and has said that he spent considerable time perfecting his mook-speak, because (as with Chumley's Hulk Speak) he constantly deals with people who respect street smarts and a capacity for violence more than higher learning. The series as a whole has a similar preference, though... the one character who uses Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness is playing dumb.
- It's also mentioned that Guido was in Guys and Dolls when he was in school, and developed a fondness for his character's speech patterns.
- A character in War and Peace speaks in unintelligibly mangled French to sound more intelligent and impress a girl.
- Shlubb and Klump Russian as used by Modest Kamnoyedov from Strugatsky Brothers' novel Monday Begins on Saturday. He is a bureaucrat working in the Institute of Sorcery and Wizardry, fails to get the local Techno Babble but still tries to use it. Hilarity Ensues (for example, he pronounces the word homunculus as "hum-moonkles").
- Also Amvrosiy Ambroisovich Vybegallo who tries to imitate sophisticated syntax and uses mangled French phrases to conceal his lack of intellect and manners.
- Discworld: Colon and Nobby tend to slip into this when no one else is around. Particularly noticeable in Thud!
- Unintentional example: Bella's narration of Twilight is considered to be this.
- As is almost everything Aro and the other Volturi say.
- And the Cullens in general (besides, possibly Emmett and Rosalie), though Edward takes the cake.
- Ultimately, it might very well be Stephane Meyer herself who suffers from these delusions...
- Mrs Malaprop, as written by Sheridan.
- Owl in Winnie-the-Pooh is rather like this; he's supposed to be what a young child would think sounds educated.
- The book The Shadow God is full of Shlubb and Klumping on the part of its author, Aaron Rayburn. Specific examples include "the blue glow emancipating from the basement" (emanating) and "Spiers's eyes popped extraneously from their sockets" (??).
- Christopher Paolini, author of Inheritance Cycle, has an unfortunate tendency to lapse into this, usually as a result of his Purple Prose, thesaurus abuse and trying too hard to come up with creative descriptions.
- The Eye of Argon. All of it.
- Older Than Print: The Host in The Canterbury Tales.
- One of Dave Barry's "Mister Language Person" columns suggested using this as "Power Vocabulary" to impress your boss with:
You: Good morning, Mr. Johnson, you hemorrhoidal infrastructure.
Your Boss: What?
- In Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget tries to start off her interview with Colin Firth by asking him about a movie of his that isn't Pride and Prejudice, and comes up with: "Do you think the book of Fever Pitch has spored a confessional gender?" (She was supposed to ask him if it had "spawned a confessional genre," but had heard the phrase wrong.) He struggles to come up with a reasonable answer to this nonsensical question.
- Informed example: the narrator of Anton Chekhov's short story "Peasants" characterizes the "hetman" of the village, saying that he is unable to read but had acquired "bookish expressions." The reader never hears much of his speech but is left to imagine that it would be much like this.
- In Whale Talk by Cris Crutcher Dan Hole comes across as this.
- In Les Misérables, the villainous Thenardier is a frequent example of this. He speaks and writes in a flowery manner that gives him the air of a philosopher/intellectual, but his writing is filled with misspellings, and Hugo comments to the effect that his obsession with Big Words shows a stupid person's understanding of what a smart person sounds like. Thenardier also frequently defends arguments by fraudulent citations of famous people, but has no actual knowledge of those authorities, except that they are famous (e.g. he will cite to the novels of someone who only wrote poetry). His wife also demonstrates this through the odd names she gave to her daughters, taken from romantic novels. This choice is very similar to the idea underlying a Ghetto Name.
- Occurs in Richard Lederer's Anguished English books. This example is from a court transcript:
Attorney: How did you know he was drunk?
Witness: Because he was argumentary and he couldn't pronunciate his words.
- The title character in Mark Twain's "A Dog's Tale" used fancy-sounding human words she didn't know the meaning of while speaking to other dogs in an attempt to seem important.
- Ravenor has the rogue trader Sholto Unwerth, whose mangling of the English language must be seen to be believed.
“I miss nothing, eaves-wise. Ears as sharp as pencils, me. No, no. All fair. If Mistress Zeedmund here finds me an abject increment to her affiliations, and wants no more of me, all she has to overtake is a word in my general. A simple ingratitude from her, and I will be, so to speak, out of your air. Without any requisite for shoving, slapping, or harsh language. On the however hand, if what I have so far expleted trickles her fancy, I would be most oblate to dispel some more, at her total inconvenience, on the subject of what I have pertaining in my cargo hold.”
- Augustus and Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars are borderline cases—they get some of their longer and/or rarer and/or archaic words right and then misuse "transmit" or "soliloquy", for just two examples.
Live Action TV
- Shlubb and Klump French: Perceval and Karadoc from Kaamelott.
- One minor character inverts this, as he can't remember the "big words", and of course serves as messenger between Lancelot's rebels and Arthur. He memorably turned "The king sends an ultimatum" into "The king sends a nutritionist".
- The classic version of this trope is Amos And Andy in both radio and television shows of the 1940s and 1950s. The radio show had its black leads voiced by white actors (who also played the roles in blackface in a movie; the television show cast actual African-Americans) speaking fluent Shlubb and Klump. It fell out of favor when polite society discovered that many whites who watched the show thought that the "Negros" they met in real life were just as stupid and shiftless as these caricatures. Weirdly, even though Amos & Andy has been off the air for half a century, even as reruns, similar blackface characters keep turning up in home-grown musicals performed by all-white college fraternities.
- Arthur Daley, the Honest John of Minder, often uses larger words than he understands and is prone to malapropisms, as tries to present himself as genteel and upper crust.
- The best known interpreter of Runyonesque dialogue was character actor and TV producer Sheldon Leonard. His distinctive version of the overly literate gangster/thug kept him employed in movies, radio and television for nearly sixty years. When not doing character parts, Leonard produced TV classics like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and I Spy, often doing guest shots on his own shows.
- The In Living Color! sketch character, Oswald Bates, is an inmate who delivers self-educated political ramblings. The humor is based on his misuse of vocabulary words, and anatomical terms in particular.
"First of all, we must internalize the flatulation of the matter, by transmitting the effervescent of the indonesian proximity, in order to further segregate the crux, of my venereal infection. Now, if I may retain my liquids here for one moment, I'd like to continue the redundance of my, quote-unquote, "intestinal tract", see, because to preclude on the issue of world domination would only circumvent... excuse me, circumsize the revelation that reflects the aphrodesiatic symptoms, which now perpetrates the gericurl's activation."
"Allow me to expose my colon, once again, the ramification inflicted on the incision placed within the Fallopian cavities serves to be holistic, taken form the Latin word, 'jalapeno'..."
- An episode of M*A*S*H has Radar taking a correspondence course in creative writing. The episode consists mainly of him writing the daily reports like a bad novel, in the process angering Colonel Potter.
- This was the schtick of Maple LaMarsh on Remember WENN.
- Firefly: The scene from the bar in the "Train Job" episode? ("This is a most... Ass-picious day!")
- In the Castle episode "Overkill" the hungover motel clerk tends to babble on in a fashion like this ("I appreciate you guys intervejecting [sic] with the police down there on my behest.")
- The Detroit 1-8-7 episode "Beaten/ Cover Letter" featured a boxer's manager who spoke like this— and a detective who mocked him for it.
- One of the running gags on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is Charlie's tendancy to slip into this mode whenever he tries to impress people. One of the most memorable happens when he receives advice on how to talk to a beautiful woman.
Mac: Just tell her you're a philanthropist. Chicks dig it when you work with kids and senior citizens and crap.
Woman: So what do you do for a living?
Charlie: I'm a ... full-on-rapist ... you know, kids and old people, mainly.
- In one episode of Boy Meets World, Eric gets a word-a-day calendar to improve his vocabulary and he tries to use these words in conversation but repeatedly fails at it. By the end of the episode he gets the hang of it but annoys everybody by using big words in mundane conversation.
- An episode of Friends had Joey writing a letter and discovering, to his delight, the thesaurus function on his word processor. Given the tool's imprecisions, his letter (and his dialogue for the rest of the episode) became this trope.
- Michael Scott of The Office (US) is likely to use several of those every time he speaks.
- And when he "improvs conversation" as he puts it, expect him to confuse everyone including himself, leading to a metaphorgotten.
- Gob of Arrested Development has not mastered either the meaning or pronunciation of circumvent.
- Mrs. Slocombe of Are You Being Served? was frequently prone to this, including in one of her catchphrases ("And I am unanimous in that").
"The earth began as a soup, with little orgasms floating about in it."
- The police version mentioned under Real Life is displayed by Dave, a police officer in Parks and Recreation, especially in his second appearance on the show. His "talking head" segments are delivered like police reports, and in general, he has a tendency toward malapropisms and using Perfectly Cromulent Word(s).
- Sabalom Glitz, Doctor Who's very own Honest John's Dealership who appears in the serials "Trial of a Time Lord" and "Dragonfire", tends to drift into this when attempting to convince others of his intelligence and sophistication.
- Played for laughs a lot in Only Fools and Horses. Del Boy uses French words and phrases, and sometimes long English words, in an effort to sound sophisticated, knowledgeable and/or upper-class. He fails. Other characters also do this from time to time, principally Boycie.
- On Desperate Housewives:
Danielle: You're always mean to me, just like you were to Dad! You emasculated him. Well, you're not going to emasculate me!
Bree: You don't even know what that means, you petulant sockpuppet!
Danielle: Who. Cares. I'm going to the store.
Bree: [as Danielle walks out] BUY A DICTIONARY!
- Amos and Andy did this continually.
- This was a particular specialty of Archie the Bartender, in the old '40s comedy Duffys Tavern.
- Phil Harris did this all the time on The Phil Harris Alice Faye Show.
- The Bob & Ray character of Dr. Elmer Stapley, "The Word Wizard", was all about this trope.
- The theme of mooks talking over their heads was a mainstay of Damon Runyon's writings in the early 20th century and is the likely inspiration for most modern examples. Guys and Dolls, a musical and movie in the 1950s, is still being performed today, giving generations of American high school students a chance to channel their inner mook on stage.
- Another '50s example is the musical and movie Kiss Me Kate, the plot of which concerns a production of a musical version of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Two mooks show up at the theater to make sure the leading man pays his gambling debts. They get to strut their stuff in the classic comic song, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."
- The mooks can almost steal the show the show this way if they can play their respective mob stereotypes (the stocky, verbose fellow with an exaggerated accent, and the skinny old guy with the Marlon-Brando-impersonator's voice) completely and hilariously straight, even while singing.
- Macheath in Brecht's The Threepenny Opera is sort of a cross between this and Know-Nothing Know-It-All, speaking in a much more genteel manner than his mooks, but prone to crude language when angry. In one scene, he lectures them on their ignorance and discusses Chippendale vs. Louis Quatorze furniture but doesn't actually know which piece of furniture is which.
- Shakespeare liked to write buffoonish, lower-class characters who try to speak above their station and end up littering their speech with malapropisms, much to the confusion of many modern students.
Dogberry: Thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this.
Sir Toby: *upon seeing Maria* Accost, good knight, accost! (Meaning to woo.)
Sir Andrew: Good Mistress Accost...
Maria: My name is Mary, sir.
Sir Andrew: Good Mistress Mary Accost...
- A classic element of Minstrel Shows was the "stump speech," where a stereotypical black character (usually a white actor in blackface) gives a political address filled with high-flown malapropisms from beginning to end.
- G(a)linda and Madame Morrible of Wicked are both prone to this. Specifically, they tend to tack extraneous or just plain wrong suffixes onto otherwise serviceable words. Since they typically do it when speaking to people of lower class than themselves, it's possible they know it's wrong but think their audience will be impressed anyway.
- Actually, according to the companion book The Grimmerie, this is simply Ozian English, dialectically speaking.
- In the Danish comedy play Erasmus Montanus, the village Know-Nothing Know-It-All speaks Schlubb And Klump Latin, with a good dose of Canis Latinicus mixed in with occasionally correct words. The main character (a pompous and over-educated Stranger in a Familiar Land come home to visit his parents) tries to call him on it, only to fail because the villagers don't speak a word of the language anyway and finds the conman's gibberish more convincing.
- In the Commedia dell'Arte, one of Dottore's standards was to misuse words, for example pluralizing things according to Latin or Greek rules; he was terrified of being mugged by "hoodla" (hoodlums).
- In seminar, Douglas often comes off this way, especially in his opening speech.
- Perhaps the most egregious example of this is Yangus of Dragon Quest VIII, who while mostly being a lower-class Boisterous Bruiser, occasionally tries to mix in words of more than 2 syllables...and always, ALWAYS screws them up. How hard is it to say 'specific,' man?!
- The character Redd White (Head of Bluecorp) in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. Appropriately enough, he's the chapter's villain.
- Abercrombie Fizzwidget from Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. It turns out that he does this because he's actually dim-witted Captain Qwark in disguise. The real Fizzwidget speaks normally.
- Lukan the Witless in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura. He's convinced that "witless" is a synonym for "humorless." Appropriately, his and his henchmen's Beef Gate status can be circumvented with a single point in Persuasion.
- "Who am I? Who am I? Lukan! Lukan the Witless! Where I go, the masses quabble in perturbisiveness and trepidunction!"
- Lord Rugdumph gro-Shurgak in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. He manages to work about three malapropisms into every sentence. He wishes you to exterminize some ogres, who have abjected his daughter. Should you do so, he will grant you a sword that has been passed in his family for many generators.
- This sword has the effects of temporarily decreasing the victim's Speechcraft skill and applying a Silence effect, by the way.
- Qui the Promoter from Jade Empire, an NPC at the Imperial Arena who tries to impress others by (ab)using big words. At one point, if you complain about this, he retorts with "Everything I say is perfectly cromulent, and it might do you well to embiggen your vocabulary before you fling accretions in my discretion."
- Barnum from Fable II, who learned his "ridiculousitous" vocabulary from a dodgy thesaurus he purchased.
- From a merchant in the beginning of the game who speaks in much the same manner.
- Yoshimitsu's dialect is somewhere between this and Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. Not that it stops him from being a Bad Ass.
- In Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, one of the Cipher Mooks regularly spouts nonsense statistics. This often works on his companion, though he's left with a vague suspicion that he's being tricked.
- The K'tang of Star Control 3 use words like Crushify and Destructimate rather often. They also react very badly if you point this out. Of course, they react badly no matter what you do. They really really like to crushify.
- The manual for Bulletstorm describes the planet the game takes place on as "once-beatific." Beatific can literally mean "bestowing bliss" or "blissful", which is what they were likely shooting for... but it carries very strong connotations that this bliss is sacred or holy in nature, which makes the line all kinds of awkward. Considering the game's tone, this may have been intentional.
- Donny, the sign-in guy from You Don't Know Jack 2011, especially when you ask him to explain the rules.
- Which means that any question written by him in the game proper is going to be... tricky.
- One of Those Two Bad Guys in Exit Fate is clearly trying for Talks Like a Simile. Instead, he constantly forgets where he's going with them, resulting in a bad case of this that usually confuses listeners into Visible Silence. He always assumes they're just crushed by his devastating insults.
- After you beat up some common thugs in one part of Devil Survivor 2, Commander Hotsuin shows up and asks if it's fun playing with imbeciles. The beaten thug replies, "You're an umbilical!"
- El Goonish Shive came close to delusory eloquence in its early days. The author himself admits that he actually spoke like that in those days. The scripting has undergone major improvements since.
- In Homestuck, uu has a tendency to occasionally use phrases he doesn't actually understand in an attempt to make himself look more intimidating, such as here:
uu: YOuR ATROCIOuS TALE IS FuLL OF SO MANY SHITTY RED HERRINGS. AND YOu ARE THE SHITTIEST. BY FAR.
uu: OH LOOK. THIS MAN IS NOT WHAT HE APPEARS TO BE. OR IS HE? NO HE'S GLASSES.
uu: THE MYSTERY IS SOLVED. WHO GIVES A FuCK.
- Marcus from 1/0 suffers from the tendency, but loses it after his Epiphany Therapy.
- In Sinfest, Monique suffers an attack while posing as a gypsy Fortune Teller: she speaks of her amazing psychotic powers.
- The yuan-ti on the page picture is Kin from Goblins, and is actually perfectly aware of how her speech makes her sound. The problem is that when she's stressed she starts talking like... well, this trope.
- Bugs Bunny occasionally indulges in this "stragedy", particularly when confronted with a "huge Frankincense monster" that means to render him "non compus mentus".
- As does Daffy Duck, when contemplating "self-preservatiomunum...munum".
- THAT, sir, is an inmitigated frabrication!
- Peter Griffin finds the use of this trope "both shallow and pedantic".
- This holds for any word used that Peter doesn't understand, such as "esoteric".
: * after being told his theme choice was esoteric* Lois, Who's the Boss?
is not a food. Brian
: Swing and a miss.
Rehab Director: "You know this degenerate?"
Peter: "A degenerate, am I? Well you're a fastizio!" (Beat) "See? I can make up words too."
- The Opening Narration to DFE's Super President states that the hero can change his body into "whatever the need requires".
- Octagon Vreedle (but not Rhomboid) of Ben 10: Alien Force.
- Coach Wittenberg from Hey Arnold! is made of this trope, occasionally leading to Getting Crap Past the Radar in the process (such as the time he refers to synchronized swimming as "circumcised swimming").
- Although Early Cuyler from Squidbillies is not trying to sound intelligent, he mispronuncitates and adds sylabbizanation to almost every word over three syllables because he is a hillbilly stereoishtypery.
Early: I have re-evalutated the saturation and I have convoluted that you ain't wild, you mild.
- Blob from The Dreamstone has bouts of this, particularly when trying to sound authoritative.
- Chicken from Cow and Chicken uses large words at times (largely incorrectly) to sound smarter than he really is. Thing of it is... it actually works, but only because the people with whom he lives and interacts are complete morons.
- Pugsy from Fangface is an example of both this and Malaproper.
- Stinks from Erky Perky tends to talk like this. Of course, no other character is actually smart enough to call him on it.
- The "Ungroundable" episode of South Park had all the "cool" kids at school jumping on the Twilight bandwagon and pretending to be vampires. One of the "vampires" is a snobby preppy in a Classical Movie Vampire cape who repeatedly misuses the phrase "per se", just to sound important.