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Miming the Cues
Sometimes, a person gets caught in a situation where he or she wants to say something to someone else, but doesn't want to be the one to say it, mainly because they're too embarrassed to show themselves or only one of their friends can speak for them. So, they perform a game of Charades behind another person's back to tell their friend what to say to that person. This is obviously so they don't attract the attention of the person or people the friend is trying to speak to. Hilarity often ensues as the friend sometimes misinterprets the gestures that his pal is signaling towards him.

This is a sibling trope to Earpiece Conversation.

Can lead to Nonverbal Miscommunication.

Compare Hand Signals.

Examples

Anime & Manga
  • In Yubisaki Milk Tea Yoshinori do it a pair of time to Minamo, when other people ask after his alter-ego Yuki. When his best friend Wataru ask, a pair of crossed fingers mean "Don't tell him anything". While an open hand and a neutral face is used, when Nobuko shall know "Thanks. I'll go later (as Yuki)".

Film
  • In Lilo & Stitch, Nani coaches Lilo via hand signals through a talk with social worker Cobra Bubbles about how Nani is doing as her guardian. It goes well at first, but then Nani makes the mistake of raising a fist in triumph and Lilo interprets it as "getting disciplined." Things swiftly go downhill from there.
  • Near the end of Brave, Elinor has to perform gestures towards her daughter, Merida, so she can deliver a speech to keep the peace between the clans. She is unable to do it herself as she has transformed into a bear.
  • In Despicable Me 2, Gru tries to get out of a date he doesn't want by trying to get Agnes to pretend he isn't there.
    Jillian: Agnes, where's Gru?
    Agnes: He's... (Gru tries to make her stop talking by zipping his lips) putting on lipstick! (waves his hands) He's... swatting flies! (gestures across his neck) He's... chopping a head off! (clenches his fists in frustration) He's.... pooping?
  • In Ghostbusters, during the scene where Peter Venkman is explaining their fees to the hotel manager, Egon Spengler is subtly feeding him the numbers via hand signals.

Literature
  • Used in a Lord Darcy story, The Napoli Express. Lord Darcy was undercover, so he couldn't investigate the murder directly. When the official investigator is getting advice from Master Sean, Darcy uses hand signals to pass suggestions on to Sean, who then talks about what Darcy would do were he there.

Live-Action TV
  • In one episode of The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, Zack has to fill in for his brother for an interview when Cody accidentally dyes his hair red and is too embarrassed to show himself to the interviewer. He tries to act out the words to tell Zack what to say, but he ends up misinterpreting every signal that Cody sends out to him.
  • Blackadder: In the first episode Baldrick and Percy help Edmund by hinting how many and who he should claim to have killed, as he reports his killings to Prince Harry.
  • Parodied on Chuck, where Chuck tries to instruct Captain Awesome on the lie to tell to his wife about where he's been all night. As Awesome is a Bad Liar, he completely misunderstands what Chuck is trying to say and spirals into absurdity.
    Ellie: Why didn't you call?
    Awesome: Um... After I got off the overnight, I, I decided I needed to clear my head. So, I went for a run. In Griffith Park. No cell phones there. So... I'm running and, I just, I heard something, in a tree, and there's a, there's a cat, a hurt cat, I go to see if it needed medical attention, then I realized, ... ... ... It's a bear. Yeah, yeah! The cat's a bear! It's a bear and it jumps out at me and it attacks and it's like it's angry at me for some reason this bear RAAARHGH Yeah! And I... cut off its head! ... Yeah, babe, I had to decapitate the bear. Self defense. In order to survive. I'm just glad you weren't there to see it, it was really grizzly.
    Ellie: Do you honestly expect me to believe this?
  • An episode of Power Rangers Wild Force features Danny signalling the plot of a book Max told Alyssa he had read. Parodied in Linkara's History of the Power Rangers when he shows the clip and point out Danny's signals make no sense.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The episode "Teacher's Pet" (the one with the praying mantis lady.) Buffy didn't do her homework, so when the teacher asks her to explain how ants communicate, Willow has to help her. She gets the mime for "touch" right, but she misinterprets "smell" as "B.O." The teacher, without even turning around, asks if Willow has anything else to say.
  • Fawlty Towers: In "Communication Problems" Basil is trying to give Polly the name of a horse he won money on (Dragonfly), since she's holding it for him and they have to quickly convince Sybil that she bet on the horse instead. Sybil knows the name, so Polly needs the right one. Basil makes flapping motions and points to Sybil, because he refers to her as a dragon sometimes, but Polly incorporates other "pet" names first, leading to "flying tart" and "birdbrain". (She does get it eventually.)
  • In the Friends episode "The One With The Pediatrician", when Pheobe realises Mike and Joey don't know each other, she challenges Mike to say how many sisters Joey has. Unfortunately Joey holds up the wrong number of fingers.

Web Original
  • In episode 12 of RWBY, Jaune is asked a question in class that he does not know the answer to. Pyrrha tries to mime the answer, "night vision". Jaune answers, "Binoculars?"

Western Animation
  • A variation of this trope shows up in the Mr. Bogus episode "Class Clown Bogus". Tommy is struggling to come up with the right answer to a math problem, when in comes Bogus who is able to help out, by writing the correct answer on the blackboard directly behind the teacher, allowing Tommy to give the correct answer.

Milking the Giant CowBody LanguageMoe Stare
Message in a BottleNarrative DevicesA Mind Is a Terrible Thing to Read
Midnight SnackComedy TropesMind Your Step

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