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Loose Lips

Three can keep a secret, if two of them are dead.

When someone gives away sensitive information unintentionally because they can't keep it to themselves. The Trope Namer is the famous slogan from World War II "Loose Lips Sink Ships".

Very much Truth in Television, and something constantly warned about in the armed forces around the world, as you can never tell when the person on the street you are talking to might secretly be an espionage agent.

Because Technology Marches On, it's even easier than ever to get people killed by running your mouth off, thanks to websites such as LiveJournal, Facebook, TV Tropes, and That Other Wiki. Always beware that when you talk about something that is privileged or secret, you might as well be standing on a roof top with a big sign and a megaphone.

A real danger, even if you don't live in a City of Spies, particularly if you unwittingly work near The Mole or are the target of a Honey Trap (a warning commonly given to members of the military when they are going out into town: "If a girl acts interested in you, and if you're ugly, then it's a trick.")

When this is subverted, it can become Feed the Mole. A subtrope of Saying Too Much.

Examples

    open/close all folders 

    Films — Animation 
  • Who Framed Roger Rabbit has the main character asking a few too many people where the detective's office is, allowing the bad guys to find it.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • The Sum of All Fears movie has one nuclear scientist's mom giving away some information to Clark that allows him to find the terrorist's nuclear production area.
  • Parodied in a flashback in Airplane!: The hero tells his girlfriend that he's going to be sent out on a mission soon. He then goes on to mention exactly where he's going, what he's going to be bombing, what time of day they'll be attacking, how high they'll be flying, and what direction they'll be coming in from. But he refuses to give her a rough estimate of when he'll be back from the mission, because that's classified.
  • Briefly comes up in WarGames, after David and Jennifer find out they accidentally hacked into NORAD and almost caused A Nuclear Error. After Jennifer gives a speech about how they won't be suspected if they act normal:
    Jennifer: Oh God, this is so unbelievable! Listen, do you think maybe I could call Michelle and tell her?
    David: NO, JENNIFER, DON'T CALL HER!
    Jennifer: Sorry. All right, I won't.

    Literature 
  • Harry Potter
  • The Ballad of the King's Jest by Rudyard Kipling, about a talkative man running into the Great Game and discovering that his boss in Kabul doesn't have so much patience that this could end well for him.
  • Professor Mmaa's Lecture: Professor Soul's Second Assistant, a termite who is a born snitch—literally. He's been born with auditory organs all over his body and is constantly registering so much input that he feels a physical need to dump this baggage out of his memory onto a number of interested termites.
  • In Noob, Gaea had to stop playing her previous MMORPG because a friend of hers couldn't keep her mouth shut about the scams she was pulling on other players. That friend is playing her current MMORPG also, but Gaea's Manipulative Bastard habits where getting an embryonic Open Secret status by the time they ran into each other, making the info less sensitive.
  • Sarai in the second Daughter of the Lioness book refuses to not speak out against the horrible injustices perpetrated by the Copper Isles' ruling family. The things she says are accurate, but the Rittevons are notoriously paranoid and touchy and have already arrested one very popular nobleman for trying to tactfully suggest that they not be quite so brutal, so it's a really bad idea. She also tells members of her social circle where there are anti-listening spells, another unwise move.
  • The undoing of more than one of Parker's carefully planned heists in the novels of Richard Srak; usually to Parker's disgust..

    Live-Action TV 
  • An episode of ER has two nurses talking about the two children of a patient who had been in an accident comforting each other... which ended up leading to Brother-Sister Incest. Unfortunately, they unknowingly were walking past the patient's husband, leading to a near-shooting incident (the father managed to calm himself down and came clean about what he had nearly done). The doctors were not pleased about the violation of Patient-Doctor Confidentiality and the incident it nearly caused.
  • JAG: In "People v. Rabb", when Admiral Chegwidden says that what he's about to say is sensitive, Bud replies that My loose lips will sink no ships.
  • Barbra Jean from Reba has this reputation, and for good reason. Throughout the series, she's blabbed out things quite a few times, such as telling Reba's eldest daughter and son-in-law about her youngest daughter's decision to move in with Reba's ex-husband — even after promising not to blab.
  • ''Justified:
    • Boyd Crowder's latest heroin shipment was delayed and to placate his dealers he tells them that the shipment is arriving tomorrow evening. The next day one of the dealers is approached by a female junkie who offers to give him a blow job if he tells her when he will get new heroin. He obliges and sure enough Boyd's shipment is hijacked and the men guarding it are killed.
    • One would think that a mob boss like Sammy Tonin knew how to keep his mouth shut about the murder he committed. However, Sammy has gone through a Villainous Breakdown and is high on drugs most of the time. He brag to his business partners about the murder and how he had help from a federal agent. One of those business partners gets arrested and trades that information to the cops.

    Music 
  • "Secret" by The Pierces (which became the opening theme for Pretty Little Liars) paraphrases the quote at the top of the page: "Two can keep a secret if one of them is dead".
  • "Loose lips sink ships" is in the chorus of "Slip Of The Lip" by Ratt.

    New Media 
  • The Other Wiki has an entry explaining the dangers of putting sensitive information (or at least, information that can come back to bite you in the ass) on Wikipedia.

    Video Games 
  • Fallout: New Vegas includes propaganda that's related to the common loose lips sink ships posters. At Helios One, it includes the "telling your wife" scenario, and "telling your drinking buddies", showing the route on how information reaches the Chinese spies.
  • Mass Effect 3: The Alliance News Network twitter updates on the Reaper invasion of Earth, which included details on where civilians were able to get military protection so they could escape Earth. Emily Wong realized too late that the Reapers had been reading the tweets to find out where the evacuation point was so they could attack it.
  • BlazBlue has this trope used to rather devastating effect against its invoker. After a fight, Hazama tells Makoto, in no uncertain terms, about Relius Clover's "random and untoward" interest in her before making an attempt on her life (and getting frozen by Jin for it). He really should have picked a better compliment in hindsight. Why? 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 
  • The Private Snafu short "Spies": Snafu brags about how he'll never tell the secret information he knows, but he carelessly drops hints which are eagerly picked up by hidden spies.

    Real Life 
  • As mentioned above, the Trope Namer is the slogan from World War II, reminding people to be careful what they talk about in public, lest Axis spies pick up valuable clues.
  • "Journalist" Geraldo Rivera in early 2003, while Rivera was traveling with the 101st Airborne Division in Iraq during a Fox News broadcast, Rivera began to disclose an upcoming operation, even going so far as to draw a map in the sand for his audience. The military immediately issued a firm denunciation of his actions, saying it put the operation at risk, and nearly expelled Rivera from Iraq.
    • Parodied by The Daily Show, which saw this as Rivera getting overexcited about establishing his Intrepid Reporter credentials.
      Stephen Colbert: He's the only reporter out here who's got the cojones to walk it like he talks it! He can't be constrained by concern for the safety and security of men who have invited him to join them at great risk to both themselves and their military objective! If he gets everybody killed, so be it. He's not gonna pussy out.
  • News of the impending attack on Goose Green during the Falklands War was released by the British government and broadcast on the BBC World Service while the troops were still advancing on the town (and hadn't yet been detected by the Argentinian forces).

Literal Surveillance BugEspionage TropesManchurian Agent
Lite CremeWe Are Not Alone IndexLoudness War

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