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From the Mouths of Babes

<pipo> and she asks me
<pipo> "hey what's 'friendship-with-benefits?'"
<pipo> so I give the big brother response
<pipo> "it's a physical relationship, without any commitment"
<pipo> mind you, she's 11 and I don't want to get into much detail with my sis
<pipo> anyway she was quiet for a moment
<pipo> and then she goes
<pipo> "ok so like f***buddies then?"
— qdb.us #64104

Isn't it cute when a kid knows more than you'd think? Isn't it even cuter when they know more than you'd think about something that you'd prefer no kid knew at all? Especially if the kid is too young to be in the Competence Zone. It's a pretty sure-fire way to get a laugh, especially if adults have spent the whole episode trying to keep the kid from finding something out, and the kid knew it all along.

To anyone young enough to understand or who can remember what it was like to be young, it's funny because the child shows a complete disregard for the unsaid treaty between children and adults: Kids can learn things as long as they pretend they haven't and don't ever mention it. It works on numerous levels.

This trope often isn't exploited in full on television, because if a child actor actually says the darndest things, the Moral Guardians will complain. Instead, they say mildly darnded things. Other media will exploit this more fully.

See also The Talk. For a more general example of kids talking outside of their expected age range, see Little Professor Dialog. If the kid is performing a song they know that wasn't... written for a kid to sing, then it's Age Inappropriate Art. Sub-Trope of Troubling Unchildlike Behavior.

Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • Quaker Chewy Granola Bars used to be advertised as being able to stop children from saying the darndest things. One of their ads had a little boy walking up to a bride and informing her that his mother can't believe that she (the bride) wore white.
  • A popular Norwegian advertisement shows a mother awkwardly trying to explain to her son that his goldfish is tired and needs a vacation, cue the boy's sister showing up asking what's going on, the boy casually remarks "Doffen has died" and leaves the room.
  • An ad shows a child meeting his dad's boss, and after a moment saying "Daddy, his nose isn't brown."

    Anime & Manga 
  • Much of the jokes in Crayon Shin Chan are of this type. Though mostly in the American dub. In the original dubs, all kids but Shin-chan (And a bit of Nene, the preschool equivalent of a Covert Pervert) are perfectly innocent, and (especially in the manga) it's hinted that Shin-chan doesn't know what he's talking about most of the time.
  • Kirimi Nekozawa from Ouran High School Host Club. For some reason, her minders decided to read her shoujo manga, which leads her to say things like "There's debauchery going on here, isn't there?" In the manga (and the English dub), she goes so far as to call the Host Club a "reverse harem".
  • The Magical Girl Lyrical Nanoha Lyrical Almanac Gag Series in Megami Magazine uses this for a punchline in one comic as Vivio somehow misinterprets her Fate-mama's having her own place to return to as, well...
    Vivio: Wait, does that mean Fate-mama... is a gigolo?
    Fate: What!? No!
  • The backstory for Gundam Wing's Duo Maxwell gives him a non-swearing example of this. During a conversation with the priest and nun who raised him, he says he doesn't believe in God, but he does believe in the God of Death, because as he puts it, "I've never seen any miracles, but I've seen lots and lots of dead people!" The nun admonishes him gentle, but the priest laughs and admits the boy has a point.
  • A regular source of humor in the Gag Dub of Ghost Stories.
  • Zig-zagged with the Nyan-Nyans from Fushigi Yuugi. Yes, they are Physical Goddesses and Really 700 Years Old, but for the major part of the series they look like little girls no older than 10 and have the mentality of such. But then they open their mouths...
    Nyanyan:(to Nuriko, as her sisters heal Miaka, Tamahome and Hotohori) Let me heal you!
    Nuriko: Than you, but I'm not hurt...
    Nyanyan: I'll heal your perversion!
    Nuriko: [punches the offending Nyanyan into the stratosphere]
    Nyanyan: AIYAAAAAA!
  • Right after the school festival in Persona 4: The Animation, Nanako gives us this gem, courtesy of the festival's fortune teller who is really Margaret.
    Nanako: Man whore! She said you're one big man whore!
    • And later in that same episode, the boys are caught "peeping" on the girls during the hot springs episode.
    Nanako: Big bro...are you and Teddie....horny?
  • In episode 5 of season 2's Yuru-Yuri, while waiting for Himawari, Sakurako makes another A-Cup Angst joke about her. Kaede, Himarwari's kid sister, arrives at the front door, and asks if she hates boobs. Sakurako says she doesn't, and then Kaede innocently says she'll share her boobs with Sakurako. Later, she brings some milk for her in an attempt to increase her bust size. Sakurako holds back hitting her since she doesn't know any better.
  • In episode 10 of Bokura Wa Minna Kawaisou, Chinatsu tells Ritsu she should go out on a date with Usa. This causes the latter to suffer a Color Failure, and both Shirosaki and Mayumi are shocked by what the 9 year old is saying. Ritsu, being completely Oblivious to Love, vehemently denies having any feelings for him, and claims he's not interested in her, when in reality, everyone knows he likes her. Made worse when Ritsu accidentally mentions Hayashi, his female friend from middle school, going to the restaurant a lot, prompting Chinatsu to mention Ritsu is jealous of that other girl.

    Comic Books 
  • Subverted in Runaways with Cute Bruiser Molly, twice:
    • In the very first story arc, Karolina drags Molly out of the room just as the Runaways are about to witness their parents making a human sacrifice. Later, when they are discussing it, she solemnly tells them that she knows exactly what they're talking about: S-E-X.
    • In the 1907 arc, when child bride Klara explains about her "marital duties," Karolina looks horrified and Molly says, "He makes you do chores?" Karolina then looks vaguely relieved that the idea of sex as marital duty has not yet reached Molly's precocious consciousness. But in the next issue Molly tells Klara that "It's not even a sin, it's illegal. There's TV shows where they catch guys even..." It's been previously established that Molly's apparent naivete is a pretense she keeps up so that others will keep their guard down around her. In this case, she may even have been trying to break the tension.
    • Used brutally when she was kidnapped by a time traveling Geoffry Wilder trying to avenge his deceased son Alex who manages to call her out on her use of her young age as disarming mechanism and tells her to drop the act. She glares. And then she tells the the man Alex turned out just like you. He was a complete failure. Damn... jut damn...
  • In Demon Knights, a young girl thanking Amazonian Beauty Exoristos for saving the village from dragons adds "But you dress like a tart."
  • The six-year-old protagonist of Squee objects when his classmate Pepito invites him to dinner:
    Todd: No, Daddy! No!! He's weird and scary! And I don't like him! And he's the son of Satan!!
    Father: Your mother and I already made plans to go out, so, like it or not, you're going. I'm hoping they try to keep you.
    Caption: This warm moment is brought to you by unplanned parenthood.

    Fan Fiction 

    Film 
  • Sam's little brother, Mike in Sixteen Candles, about his sister, Ginny, who's getting married:
    Mike: She got her period. Should make for an interesting honeymoon, huh?
    His father: Where are you learning that stuff?
    Mike: School.
    His father: Good. Gettin' my money's worth.
  • From Airplane!: "I take it black, like my men."
  • From the 1998 remake of The Parent Trap:
    Annie as Hallie: I don't mean to be jerky when you're trying to be all mushy and everything, but I know what mystery my dad sees in you.
    Meredith: You do?
    Annie as Hallie: You're young and beautiful and sexy and, hey, the guy's only human. But if you ask me, marriage is supposed to be based on something more than just sex, right?
    • For that matter, both the twins are quite eloquent for 11-year-olds throughout the movie. It's just that this is the only time adult subject matter gets this treatment.
  • Much of what Short Round says in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. "Maybe he like... older women."
  • From Drop Dead Fred:
    Mom: And the prince took the beautiful young girl in his arms and said, "will you marry me?" "Yes", she whispered, "I will be your princess".
    Young Elizabeth: Did they live happily ever after?
    Mom: Of course, Elizabeth.
    Young Elizabeth: How do you know?
    Mom: Because she was a good little girl. If she had been naughty, the prince would have run away.
    Young Elizabeth: What a pile of shit!
  • From The Wedding Singer:
    "Hey, Linda! You're a bitch!"
    "He... he may have Tourette's Syndrome, we're looking into it..."
  • From Lethal Weapon: "My Mama says policemen shoot black people!" Mel Gibson was laughing so hard in that scene.
  • Eric in Mystery Team Take this scene in a gentleman's club:
    Jason: What are you doing here?
    Eric: My mom works here.
    (Blank stares)
    Eric: What? It's better than shaking your shit on the street.
  • Inverted in Kick-Ass when Big Daddy is stunned by daughter Mindy's birthday request for a cuddly, fluffy puppy and a Bratz movie star makeover Sasha. She then lets him in on the joke, amending her request to a Benchmade model 42 butterfly knife.
  • Darian to the Big Bad Marcone in The Last Boy Scout: "Eat shit, you fucking redneck!"
  • 14 year-old Poppy in Fired Up calls Bianca a "lesbotron". There are ad-libbed alternative readings in the credits, one of which is bleeped out, but could be "you fucking dyke!"
  • Leprechaun: "Fuck you Lucky Charms!"
  • A defining trait of Wednesday in the The Addams Family movies.
  • Iron Man 3: In the middle of a panic attack, Tony's kid sidekick says "if you're a mechanic, why don't you build something?" Tony instantly calms down. What's interesting is that we actually see him testing Tony's PTSD earlier, pushing the limits of acceptable behavior a lot like Tony does.
  • A Running Gag in Kindergarten Cop is the little kid who says, "Boys have a penis, and girls have a vagina."
    • Then there's the twin girls who say, in unison, "Our mom says our dad is a real sex machine."

    Literature 
  • Sefalet's left-hand mouth says things no child should say in Dirge for Prester John. And she has no control over it.
  • Subverted in one book of the Myth Adventures when Skeeve ends up taking care of a precocious little girl because he won her in a card game. She says Darndest Things at horrible times and adult characters have their hands full explaining things to her. Turns out, she's an adult of a species that always looks like children and she's a character assassin who was saying those things deliberately to ruin Skeeve's business.

    Live Action TV 
  • My So-Called Life: When fifteen-year-old Angela begins hanging out with an effeminate Puerto Rican boy, her mother Patti objects. Danielle, who delivers the final line here, is Angela's nine-year-old sister:
    Patti: I find Rickie a little confusing.
    Angela: Okay, so maybe he's bi. Who cares? His cousin can still drive.
    Patti: What? He is what? Do you hear these terms she's throwing around? Bi?
    Danielle: It means bisexual.
  • In the Leave It to Beaver TV series, Wally tries to upbraid his little brother for falling for a panhandler's story. When he calmly states that he knew perfectly well the panhandler was making it up, Eddie demands to know why Beaver gave him money. "Because nobody ever told me a story like that before."
    • In another episode Beaver asks Ward if he's a married man. Ward assures Beaver that he is. Beaver asks if June is a married woman. Ward assures Beaver that she is.
    Beaver: Have you ever kissed any other married woman besides Mom?
    Ward: Why Beaver! Why would you ask a question like that?
    Beaver: I'm just wondering.
    Ward: Well, actually son, no.
    Beaver: I guess you were scared to, huh?
    Ward: Yeah, that's as good a way as any to sum it up I guess.
    Beaver: I guess a guy could into a lot of trouble doing that, huh?
    Ward: (looking off into the distance, mumbling) He sure could... uh, buh Beaver, I've got to finish this plug son, so you run off and play.
  • Done repeatedly on Two and a Half Men. Jake would hear or see something at his uncle Charlie's house that his father, Alan, didn't want him to be exposed to. Alan would then launch into some bizarre explanation in an attempt to protect Jake's "innocence". We then learn that Charlie and Jake were just messing with Alan and that Jake already knew what was going on.
  • Intentionally invoked by The Man Show, with a kid they hired as "The Man Show Boy", who would go around town saying things to people they wouldn't expect a kid to know.
  • In The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air episode "Be My Baby Tonight", 13-year-old Ashley asks Will to tell her everything he knows about sex. He is appalled as she goes on to say that she knows all about eggs, sperm and fallopian tubes. He says, "Am I going to have to wash your mouth out with soap, young lady?"
  • In The New Normal, Shania calls Jane a bigot, and unfriends her.
  • In a season 3 episode of Good Luck Charlie, Charlie managed to scare off all of Amy's baby shower guests after revealing her mother's true feelings towards the guests.
  • While visiting her dad's office, Sally Draper of Mad Men, who's about seven, tells Joan Holloway "You have big ones. My mommy has big ones, and when I grow up I'm going to have big ones too." (She later drains a glass of his booze too.)
    • Then there's the Season 4 episode "The Chrysanthemum and the Sword", where Sally asks her babysitter, Don's neighbor, if she and Don are "doing it", and says she knows that the man pees inside the women.
  • An occasional source of humor on The Sopranos: the adults swear constantly, but when a child (especially their own) does the same they're appalled.
  • In the Veronica Mars episode "Green-Eyed Monster", Wallace mentions to his mother he's going to be giving Jackie a hand with her trigonometry. He's not being very subtle with his entendres, but it is still a shock to him and his mother when his little brother Darrell pipes up, "Are you hitting that?"
  • Jimmy Kimmel thought it would be funny for parents to record themselves telling their young kids that they ate all the Halloween candy. Here's the result.
  • On Everybody Hates Chris, the babysitter they have in one episode is a teenage mom. Tonya tells the babysitter's mother "My mom told me she would kick me out if I had a baby 'cause she ain't raisin' no babies. Why didn't you kick her out?"

    Magazine 
  • EGM had two articles where kids of the new millenium were asked to play games from before their time and interviewed on their opinions. The results were precious.
    EGM: Who's that chick Mario is rescuing up there (in Donkey Kong)?
    Brian: It's Princess Peach.
    Kirk: It's a hooker.
    Niko: She looks cut in half.
    Tim: Oh wow — she's one of those pole dancers.
    • As a sidenote, that's Pauline, not Peach.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • The comic strip Calvin and Hobbes did this frequently, as Calvin knew just enough about the adult world to get into trouble. In one strip, Calvin lectures his father that everybody must do their part for the economy; in other words, his allowance should be raised so there is more money in circulation. His father says, "I've got to stop leaving the Wall Street Journal lying around." Later strips used Calvin's incredibly-non-six-year-old worldview to make political or societal statements. Even more incredibly, he did it without ever becoming preachy or heavy-handed.
    Calvin: Why would it be worth four dollars a minute to talk on the telephone to goofy ladies who wear their underwear on TV commercials?
    Dad: When were you watching that?!
    Calvin: Um... It was on... uh... during my morning cartoons.

    Calvin: Do you have any kids, Uncle Max?
    Max: Heck, no, Calvin, I'm not even married.
    Calvin: Oh. What difference does that make?
    Max: Kid watches a lot of TV, does he?

    Calvin: What time is it?
    Dad: 7:00.
    Calvin: It's Miller Time!

    Calvin: Why do you live in this house with Mom instead of an apartment with several scantily-clad female roommates?
  • For a seven-year old, Mafalda certainly knows a lot about politics. So do her friends, to a degree.

    Video Games 
  • Persona 3 has a fun example. New Years day has the guys in the team admiring the girls in their kimonos. The resident cute little boy Ken asks if the girls are cold. When questioned why it's because Junpei says that they wear nothing underneath. Cue Yukari stomping on Junpei's foot and asking if he told Ken anything else. (This may be better in Portable when it's possible to have a romantic relationship with Ken)
  • Solatorobo contains a mild case. While Elh manages to confuse Red and Chocolate about being female, one of the orphans immediately realizes she's a girl and asks her why she dresses like a boy. Red replies that it makes it easier to play, volunteering a flustered Elh for babysitting duty. Only question is, how exactly did the kid know that...?
  • The first Dark Brotherhood quest in The Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim has you killing the vicious woman who runs the orphanage. The children cheer you after the deed, but one girl very calmly acknowledges that killing one person can solve a lot of people's problems and that she is "wondering at the possibilities."
  • Fallout 3: Most children—unsurprisingly, given that the series is known for its Black Humor. Little Lamplight in particular has some kids using all but the most taboo swear words in every sentence.
  • In The Last of Us, Ellie surprises Joel in that she is a wise-talking, swearing, clever girl (who is also handy with a gun or two and not afraid to complete dangerous tasks). There's also her reaction to a gay porn magazine she finds:
    Ellie: Light on the reading, but it has some interesting photos.
    Joel: Now, Ellie, that ain't for kids...
    Ellie: Whoa... how- how the hell would he even walk around with that thing?
    Joel: Get rid of that! Just-
    Ellie: Hold your horses, I wanna see what all the fuss is about. Oh... why are these all stuck together?
    Joel: Ummm...
    Ellie: I'm just fuckin' with you. *throws magazine out the window*

    Webcomics 

    Western Animation 
  • Early South Park was based almost entirely around this trope.
    • Commentary for the 10th season episode Smug Alert has Trey Parker and Matt Stone did the episode primarily so that they could have the child voicing Ike say "Tripping Balls."
    • The movie focused heavily on this too, but later episodes it seems the adults have given up (in the case of some, like Counselor Mackey and Randy Marsh, they have their own issues to deal with).
  • Yakko, Wakko, and Dot. I mean Yakko's physically about 10 or 11, Wakko's physically 7 or 8, and Dot's physically 5 or 6. And yet, some of the things they say are a bit...
    "Let me know when those costumes get heavy, ladies!"
  • This gem from The Adventures of Jimmy Neutron, which deconstructs the Fridge Logic of a 10-year-old genius with an extensive knowledge of human biology when Jimmy tells his parents that he wants a baby brother:
    Hugh: (Spit Take) Baby making is very... complicated, believe me.
    Jimmy: Dad, Dad, it's not complicated. Really, really, it's —
    Hugh: You don't know —
    Jimmy: It's basically conception, right?
    Hugh: (Sticks fingers in ears and hums "la la la la")
    Jimmy: ...then a nine month gestation period...
    Jimmy: ... and then you have...
    Judy: Sweetie, a new baby just isn't in the cards right now.
    Hugh: That's enough! OK! Ha ha, I want pie! Anyone else want pie? I want pie!
  • From The Legend of Korra, seven year old Ikki sees nothing wrong with letting Asami know that her friend Korra is in love with her boyfriend.
  • On one episode of King of the Hill, Hank jokes with Bobby about girls having cooties, only for him to ask what cooties are. Hank explains that it's the disease that you get from girls, only for Bobby to reply, "Oh, you mean like chlamydia?"

    Real Life 
  • 1960s-vintage Talk Show host Art Linkletter had a regular segment on his program House Party called "Kids Say The Darnedest Things" — later spun off into a show itself — in which he interviewed children to solicit these kinds of observations for their comedic value. (Being the 1960s, they were — generally — a bit milder than today's version.)
    • Bill Cosby picked up this ball from 1998-2000, with the show Kids Say the Darndest Things, which has yielded at least one compilation book.
  • This from Not Always Right.
  • The Daily Mail, a Conservative British Newspaper, has a similar section among its letters page.
  • Bill Engvall says this about when he had to have The Talk with his son:
    So I sat him down and said, "Son, I know you already know a lot of things, so why don't you do this: why don't you tell me what you know, and I'll just fill in the blank spots." About 30 minutes later, I'm sitting there with a pen and a pad of paper, going, "You can DO that?!?"
  • This video
  • Children in general nowadays are a lot more worldly due to the media making certain knowledge available, so it is not too uncommon to find a child that is aware of what sex is or to know some things that kids otherwise shouldn't.
    • This sounds like the kind of historical revisionism we had contempt for in the generation before us. The reality was that playground word of mouth exposed us as children to quite a lot of information our Moral Guardians weren't willing to let themselves believe we would have. Graphic illustration of the facts may not have been as easy to come by as in the post-internet era, but it wasn't that absent.
      • And going even further back, privacy is a pretty new concept in most cultures. Historically speaking, it hasn't been that long since most families lived in very small houses or tent without doors or walls inside. Children typically learned about sex pretty early on, from direct observation.


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