Orphaned Etymology

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The inverse of Hold Your Hippogriffs and Oh My Gods!, it's when someone uses an expression which could not possibly have come into use, due to Speculative Fiction history preventing the etymology from taking place, making it an instance of Inexplicable Cultural Ties. "Jeez" or variants are the most commonly seen words which invoke this trope. Another form of this trope happens in Historical Fiction and the like, with words and phrases that aren't supposed to have come into use yet. This is most often used with words which are Newer Than They Think, or when people in the year 700 BC refer to the present time as "700 BC".

When played straight, this is often an aspect of the Translation Convention, in that the phrase is uttered for the viewer's benefit, rather than the characters'. Ways to defy this trope include Hold Your Hippogriffs, Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp", Oh My Gods!, or You Mean Xmas.

Depending on how deeply and pedantically you're willing to go, this is pretty much unavoidable whenever you're using modern-human language in a time or setting that isn't modern Earth. Because of the way language evolves, it's hard to come out with a sentence or two that doesn't somehow reference some real-life history.

In written works, this trope only applies to characters' dialogue, or when the work is written as a character reflecting on the events. As the author is from Earth, they can use the words the characters cannot.

Another variant of this trope is used for humor, such as yelling out "Jesus Christ!" in front of the real Jesus, who will usually assume that he is being addressed.

Sometimes justified by Translation Convention, especially when Direct Line to the Author applies.

Examples

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    Anime 
  • In the English dub of InuYasha, there's an episode where he remarks, "We've all got our own cross to bear." This is set before Christianity was introduced to Japan.
    • In another, InuYasha complains about having to take time out to be a "Good Samaritan."
  • In Viz's translation of One Piece, Crocodile comments that Luffy is "a dime a dozen", even though One Piece uses its own fictional currency called Berries.
  • In Sonic X, there is a character called 'Black Narcissus' despite his race never having visited Earth and in fact existing in a whole other universe! (Also, Sonic X's Earth doesn't appear to have the same countries anyway...)
  • The Five Star Stories has numerous things and people named after Earth stuff despite either taking place A Long Time Ago In A Galaxy Far Away or a future so distant that nobody knows much about life before space colonization. Lampshaded at one point where Ladios Sopp indulges in a bit of Leaning on the Fourth Wall and jokingly asks Chrome Ballanche, a Mad Scientist who has created several Artificial Human "Fatimas" with names based on Greek and other mythologies just where he comes up with these names.
  • Lampshaded or humor in Oh! Edo Rocket
    "Sir, that terminology is not in use during this time period."
  • The Pokémon anime is more prone to referencing locations that may or may not exist in this universe's version of Earth than the games do, most commonly in the dub and early seasons.

    Comic Books 
  • Astérix has a few of these, being set in 50 B.C. and Anachronism Stew being one of its defining features. Most notably, virtually all puns are based on words that were non-existent at the time.
    • A Dub-Induced Plot Hole occurs in the Spanish version of a comic book: A character sneezes, and Asterix says "Bless you!" — which in this context is translated to Spanish as "¡Jesús!" This raised the question for Spanish readers of how could Asterix say that in the year 50 B.C.
    • For that matter, Geriatrix is always referring to the battle of Gergovia as "Like in '52!" (from a common French expression, "like in '40!"). That is, 52 B.C. There is even one instance in which a character refers to the current year being 50 B.C.
    • In Asterix Conquers America, Getafix believes that the land he has arrived in is India. He then inexplicably thinks that the locals would prefer to be called Native Americans, even though the colonisation of the Americas and Amerigo Vespucci's birth didn't happen until over a thousand years later.
    • In a short story featured in Asterix and Obelix's Birthday: The Golden Book, Obelix is learning how to read with an alphabet book in which animals stand in for most of the letters. In the English edition, Y stands for "yak", even though yaks live in the Himalayas and were not known in ancient Gaul.
    • ''Asterix and the Actress" used the expression "drunk as a skunk". Skunks are native to the Americas.
  • Silex and the City not only has characters using dates in thousands of years B.C., but such Lampshade Hanging as a director of X-rated movies remarking that the letter X hasn't even been invented yet.
  • Jonathan Hickman's Avengers features artificial life forms called the Alephs, who were created millions of years ago by the first sentient species in the universe. It isn't explained how they could be named after the first letter of Earth's Semitic languages, which didn't exist when the Alephs first came around.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In Mel Brooks' History of the World Part I, Comicus says "Jesus" in exasperation during The Last Supper, causing Jesus to answer, "Yes?" assuming that Comicus was addressing him.
  • 1980 Flash Gordon:
    • The movie has the War Rocket Ajax as part of Ming's fleet. Ajax, of course, was a famous Greek hero, and Ming has never heard of Earth before the start of the movie.
    • And Ming himself is an alien emperor sharing his name with a famous Chinese imperial dynasty... that could be Handwaved as a coincidence if not for the transparent (and a bit racist) resemblance.
  • The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers has soldiers being ordered to loose arrows with the command "Fire!," despite the pre-firearms setting.
    • This is a subtitle error - the Elvish command is, correctly, "Loose!"
  • In Star Wars, as an xkcd strip points out, they really shouldn't know what a 'falcon' is. Han's "I'll see you in hell" from The Empire Strikes Back often raises the question "Why does he know that concept?", but the Star Wars setting has afterlife beliefs, and lots of cultures have a conception of the Land of the Dead that is most conveniently put into English as "hell". note 
    • Interestingly, humans aren't the only Earthly creatures to appear in Star Wars. Things such as cats, cows, etc. sometimes show up in the canon. The strip may also be evoking a different take on the subject—in the novelization, Obi-Wan notes that even a duck must learn to swim. Having grown up on Tatooine, Luke has no clue about any waterfowl even existing, let alone ducks. So for all we know, the ship may well be named after what we Earthlings know as a falcon. The nature of the connection between our insignificant little planet and the Star Wars galaxy is left to the imagination (or fanfic).
    • There's also The Phantom Menace and its repeated use of the word "boycott", which comes straight from the shunning campaign against landowner Charles Boycott in 19th-century Ireland. However, that could be chalked up to Translation Convention; people have translated the Roman custom of secessio plebis, where the lower class would quit working and leave, shutting down the city to protest mistreatment, as "plebeian boycott".

    Literature 
  • Discworld:
    • One of the earlier books references gypsies, which is kind of a problem, since there's no Egypt in the universe to derive that name—the equivalent is called Djelibeybi. So, if there are Roma on the Disc, they should probably be nicknamed Jelibeybs or something like that.
      • PTerry even noticed this, and explained that 'Djelibeybs', which they should be called, wouldn't be understood by the readers, so he had to use a conventional English word instead.
      • Fanon (well, one discussion on afp) has it that Discworld gypsies are descended from itinerant plaster-of-Pseudopolis sellers, hence the name is derivied from "gypsum".
    • In Witches Abroad, there's a reference to a christening, and a woman named Christine in Monstrous Regiment. In Carpe Jugulum and Nanny Ogg's Cookbook, this has been replaced with Naming Ceremony.
    • Parodied in the Assassins' Guild Diary which uses the orphaned word "byzantine" ... in explaining that the politics of the Komplezian Empire were the origins of the modern Morporkian word "complex".
    • In the introduction to The Discworld Companion, Pratchett says that a fantasy author may start out trying to avoid references to things like "Toledo steel", but sooner or later will just look up from their keyboard, mutter "what the hell" and give up.
    • Jingo has Vimes mention a Pavlovian response. A footnote explains that, on the Discworld, this phenomenon was so named after a scientist proved that dogs could be trained to salivate at the thought of meringue. (This is itself an Orphaned Etymology, as the food was named for a person who also didn't exist on Discworld!)
    • In Mort, Binky carries his riders to stratohemispheric heights. The air above the Disc forms a dome, not a sphere.
    • One of the Wizards books has a Ming vase. So called because, if you tap it, it goes Ming!
    • The French translation of Guards! Guards! has this problem with Carrot's "Dwarfish war yodel", because the French word for yodel is Tyrolienne, referencing a place that doesn't exist on the Discworld.
  • In the Dragonriders of Pern series, Pernese still say "jays" and "by all that's holy" despite having Outgrown Such Silly Superstitions. Mildly justified in that they might just be holdover expressions from the original Terran colonists.
  • The Lord of the Rings: although Tolkien worked hard to remove words that did not have a European root, he did let some things slide, such as "potato," which comes from the Taino word "batata". Tolkien explained this and other language complications as him translating the original language into English.
  • In His Dark Materials, Lyra refers to uranium mines, but a later chapter refers to "the other five planets", indicating that Uranus hasn't been discovered in her world. (In our world, uranium was named after Uranus because they were discovered around the same time. However, they're both named after a Roman god, so it's not totally out of the blue.)
  • Parodied in Dave Barry's Complete Guide to Guys, where one of the entries in Alexander the Great's diary reads:
    324 B.C., Jan. 6 - Note: Find out what "B.C." stands for.
  • In an interview, Christopher Paolini, author of the Inheritance Cycle, mentioned this problem, specifically citing "backpedaled" as a word he couldn't use. He used it anyway.
  • A Song of Ice and Fire: George R.R. Martin also slips once in a while, and uses words like "damask" in a world with no city named Damascus, "turkey" (the fowl) where there is no country of the same name, or "chequy" when the setting's doesn't have an apparent direct analog to chess (and the closest game is called cyvasse). The Straight Edge Evil character Roose Bolton likes to drink the medicinal beverage Hippocras, the name of which ultimately derives from the Ancient Greek physician Hippocrates. When Theon contemplates paying Ramsay Snow, who has just returned with an army as he promised to do in return for being given a girl to rape "his pound of flesh" towards the end of A Clash of Kings, he's quoting Shakespeare in a world where the latter never lived.
  • The Ringworld Throne:
    • A native of Ringworld refers to how the irritable chieftain of the Grass Giants might "go off like a volcano" if he finds out about something, which is puzzling because Ringworld has no volcanic activity.
    • Or the Roman god Vulcan, for that matter.
  • The novelization of Star Wars: A New Hope includes a small dialogue in which Obi-Wan Kenobi is musing about training Luke.
    Ben: Even a duck has to be taught to swim.
    Luke: What's a duck?
    • This is a bit of an aversion, since several of the Star Wars tie-ins around the time the film came out seemed to be written under the assumption that earth creatures did in fact exist in the galaxy far far away. The reason Luke doesn't know what a duck is that he lives on a desert world. Eventually, ducks are introduced into canon.
    • Another Star Wars example: the novel Lando Calrissian and the Starcave of ThonBoka mentions a Portuguese man-o'-war despite Portugal, obviously, not existing in the setting. A later article on StarWars.com made an offhand mention of the planet Portug, though it's not explicitly said that it's where the term comes from in-universe.
  • The Kingkiller Chronicle plays with this in some weird ways. There are several fictional dead and in-use languages in its world, so a Translation Convention is assumed. Then you get things like the word 'vintage'. In our world, it comes from Latin by way of French, referring to wine (vin, vino, vinum, etc...), but it's not any more out of place than any other English word in fantasy. However, in the Four Corners there is no Orphaned Etymology, because the word vintage is derived from the country of Vintas, which happens to produce fine wine.
  • Andrzej Sapkowski, best known for creating The Witcher short stories and novels, eventually answered occasional criticisms of the Witcher world being "anachronistic" (such as the mention of a woman's panties) by pointing out the ubiquity of this trope. By that logic, he noted, no fantasy novel published in Polish should ever include a king, as the word for "king" (in the Polish language) is derived from Charlemagne's name. A wholly imaginary world, he notes, has just as much reason to include modern women's underwear as it has to use modern words or ones that reference the real world. In another novel of his, with fantasy elements but set in medieval Europe, a character uses the word "cholera", a common and rather modern-sounding curse word in Polish. A footnote notes that the name of the sickness dates back to antiquity and the well-educated character who uses it would know the word and, furthermore, cursing by invoking the names of illnesses and maladies has a very long history. The footnote ends with "while there is no evidence that this particular word was used for cursing in medieval times, there is also no evidence that it wasn't", in what is possibly a Take That against such criticism.
  • In The First Law novel Red Country, one character makes a joke/pun on the heroine's name when she introduces herself as Shy, which shouldn't really work since the characters are supposed to be speaking some kind of fictional Common Tongue. Also, while not confirmed, given that another female character in the series is named Shylo, Shy may actually be a nickname for that. Also, at least one character has paraphrased Shakespeare quotes, although its plausible that these come from some in-universe equivalent author.
  • Early in KJ Parker's Sharps, one character quotes the Dorothy Parker quip (here attributed to an ancient philosopher) that "You can lead a whore to culture but you can't make her think." Later in the novel, it is implied that the language of the main characters' country is more or less Latin and that of The Empire from which they became independent is more or less Greek. This creates problems with the joke, in that whore isn't a word of Latin or Greek origin, and the Greek and Latin words for the profession wouldn't allow for a pun on horticulture (there's also an issue that the proverb that Dorothy Parker was spoofing- "You can lead a horse to water but you can't make him drink"- has an Old English origin, not a Classical one). There's also a bit of this in the fact that the novel revolves around a disputed territory between feuding nations, that is generally referred to as a DMZ- definitely a modern term.
  • Also by K.J. Parker, The Folding Knife has a scene where a character jokes that some obnoxious people should be lined up against the wall and shot. Problem is, there are no guns in the setting, and thus no firing squads that would give rise to that phrase. Possibly they use bows.
  • Lampshaded repeatedly in Void Dogs, including a self-deprecating reference to an "early 21st century writer" who was notorious for her insistence on lampshading Orphaned Etymology.
  • Avoided in The Lies of Locke Lamora. A character is described as having "a drooping moustache," instead of a "Fu Manchu moustache."
  • Brandon Sanderson:
    • Sanderson is careful about averting this subtly enough that you rarely notice. For example Scadrial (the setting of Mistborn) has no moon, so no one ever makes any references to "mooning" over someone or anything of the like. (Except once, when a character is referring to a friend's romance, in what by Word of God is a mistake) Roshar (The Stormlight Archive) has all the soil scoured from the majority of the continent by massive highstorms, so no one talks about soil, mud, or even dirt. Highstorms do carry a thick, sludgy substance that gathers on buildings and slowly hardens into stone (implied to be eroded rock and stone carried by the storms). On any other world, it would just be referred to as mud, but here they call it crem because they don't have a word for mud.
    • A specific example in The Stormlight Archive is lampshaded with the axehounds, dog-sized lobster-things used as pets and hunting companions. A worldhopper points out that while the people of Roshar are well aware of what an axe is, they don't have any actual hounds, so what do they think the name means?
  • In the first Spellsinger book, the town of Lynchbany is named for the hanging of Tilo Bany by an angry mob. The word "lynch" meaning an extralegal execution derives from Charles Lynch, an eighteenth-century Virginian known for the practice. How lynching came to be called that in the Warmlands is not explained.
  • In The Elenium, Sir Bevier's Weapon of Choice is consistently called a Lochaber axe, despite the Scottish town of Lochaber being unknown to the Elenians.
  • The Lost Fleet has a discussed example. The characters in the spacefuture use the expression "The witch sings" to mean, "something ends", but the origin of the expression is unknown. To the modern reader, it's very clearly a synthesis of "The witch is dead" (a reference to the ending of The Wizard of Oz) and "The fat lady sings" (referencing the ending of Richard Wagner's The Ring of the Nibelung, which ends with Brünnhilde, the character normally stereotyped as a huge woman in a copper bra and winged helmet, singing a long aria).

    Live-Action TV 
  • Battlestar Galactica has a few examples of terms that should be exclusive to Earth history, despite existing in a fictional universe where Earth is just a myth and modern history as we know it has not happened yet. Ships are named after Earth animals (viper, raptor) and Roslin once quotes The Merchant of Venice, among other things. Word of God explains that at least some of these were intentional, implying a cosmic connection between their history and ours ("All of this has happened before"). The one they probably can't get away with is Tigh's exclamation of "Jesus!" Even if there was such a figure in Colonial history, they are almost exclusively polytheistic and there are no other hints of anything resembling Abrahamic religions.
  • Dinosaurs uses the B.C. timeline. Lampshaded in the first episode when Robbie asks why the dates go backward. "I mean, what are we counting down for? What are we waiting for?"
  • History Bites also uses this trope in the episode focusing on Ancient Rome. Also lampshaded as the news anchors repeatedly say "whatever B.C. means."
  • In the British wartime sitcom Chickens, the characters refer to the war as World War I. In real life, it was called the Great War at that time.
    • A very mild case of Aluminum Christmas Trees: Some more cynical writers of the era doubted that it could truly be "the war to end all wars" and reasoned that if there's already one World War, there might as well be another.
  • The BBC series Robin Hood at one point features the Sheriff threatening some innocent party with a time-limited offer, which he punctuates with "tick tock". The mechanical clock didn't arrive in Europe until at least the following century.
  • Beautifully lampshaded in a sketch from That Mitchell and Webb Look:
    Prehistoric policeman: This stone crime, it's rampant. Sometimes I wonder whether the whole advance into stone technology hasn't been a bit of a double-edged sword.
    Prehistoric policewoman: Double-edged what?
    Prehistoric policeman: I don't know.
    • Another sketch uses the same "Jesus Christ!" exclamation mentioned above, again delivered to Jesus himself.
  • In Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Bajoran characters say "My God" once or twice, despite believing in the Prophets, not gods.
  • Game of Thrones: The consistent use of the term "pillow-biter" to refer to gay men (usually contemptuously). This is a real term in modern British slang meaning just what it's used to mean in the show, but it dates from the 1979 sodomy trial of former Liberal Party leader Jeremy Thorpe (specifically deriving from his accuser Norman Scott's testimony that he "bit the pillow" when Thorpe penetrated him). Needless to say, neither Jeremy Thorpe nor his trial existed or occurred in Westeros.

    Video Games 
  • Star Fox 64:
  • Several video games set in a fantasy universe (e.g. Bloodborne, Final Fantasy VII, etc.) will often reference an improvised incendiary device called a Molotov Cocktail. The name actually came from Vyacheslav Molotov, the Soviet foreign minister from 1930 - 1941. During the Winter War with Finland (1939 - 1940), Molotov claimed over the radio that Soviet air forces were dropping food for the Finnish people. The Finnish soldiers, who noticed that the objects that fell from those planes had a nasty habit of exploding whenever they hit the ground, began to sarcastically call the bombs "Molotov's bread loaves". When the Finns used petrol bombs to attack Soviet tanks, they dubbed them "Molotov Cocktails - a drink to go with the meal".
    • In general, though it appears very commonly in Video Games; Any game universe that establishes what happens when they die see XenoBlade and FF7 again with ideas such as spirits going back to The Life Stream or any other measurable concept for what happens when you die, some people use the terms Heaven or Hell despite neither names being used to address the only place where people go when they die, usually the latter.
  • In Adam Cadre's Shrapnel, a character fighting in the Civil War calls another "Einstein" — which is an in-universe slip-up on his part, as he's a time traveler.
  • In Dragon Quest, this is used a lot. It is even Lampshaded in Dragon Quest V, where the phrase "proud as Punch" is used and the Hero's daughter wonders what Punch was proud about.
  • In Skies of Arcadia, the only kind of pirate in the 'verse is explicitly called a "sky" pirate, despite the lack of need for differentiation.
  • Dates in Chrono Trigger use B.C. and A.D., even though Jesus Christ does not appear to exist in the game's universe. This system is apparently based on the founding of the kingdom of Guardia, but that doesn't explain the usage of those terms.
    • Making this even stranger is that Japan doesn't normally use B.C. and A.D., having instead terms that translate to "before common era" and "Western calendar" as equivalents, yet the Japanese version of the game still used B.C. and A.D. in the dates.
  • The English localization of Sengoku Basara 3 (Samurai Heroes), which is set in the Sengoku Era of Japan (1467–1573), has a foot soldier of Date Masamune's army periodically claim, "This is something the boss would refer to as 'cool'!" Strictly speaking, this is not by any means this series' most grievous example of something being out of chronological order.
  • In Final Fantasy VII, Tifa's bar has a neon sign with the word TEXAS written prominently on it. There's also a diner in Sector 6 that serves a "Korean BBQ Plate" (although note that the equivalent Japanese term is simply "grilled meat").
  • In Dragon Age: Inquisition, Cassandra's actions are referred to as "crusading," despite the Andrastian holy wars being called "Exalted Marches." Moreover, the main symbols of Andrastianism are a flame and a sword, not a cross, from which the word "crusade" is derived.
    • Varric, at one point, exclaims, "Jeez!" in party banter. "Jeez" is a shortened form of the "Jesus Christ!" blaspheme, even though in this world, Jesus has been replaced by Andraste.
    • There are numerous references to days of the week such as Sunday, Friday, and Tuesday, not just in Inquisition but throughout the series. Those days of the week come from the Germanic calendar, and are named after mythological figures from Norse mythology (for the example, Thursday is named after Thor, i.e. "Thor's day"). Obviously, these figures do not exist in Dragon Age's High Fantasy setting.
    • One piece of Vendor Trash you can find is a Blood-Soaked Teddy Bear.
  • The Pokémon series often refers to real-world locations, such as Lt. Surge being "American". For the most part this could be Handwaved (e.g. The first four regions taking place in Japan and Unova being part of America). Kalos, however, replaces France entirely, yet the term "French" is still used.
  • In Starcraft, the Xel'naga called their first creation the Protoss, which has the same pronunciation as the ancient Greek word meaning "first," even though the Xel'naga could not have known ancient Greek.
    • On a similar note, one of the protoss characters from the first game is called Fenix, and the sequel introduces a new protoss unit, the Phoenix. All of this without them ever having any contact with greek mythology.
  • Two of the cheeses available for purchase in World of Warcraft are "Alterac Swiss" and "Fine Aged Cheddar" – both of which are named after geographic locations on Earth.
  • Your companion in Skyrim tells you at the end of the intro that the town of Helgen is the 'end of the line' despite not having trains.
  • In Dark Souls III you can find several religious tomes written in Braille for the benefit of Blind Seers, even though the word "Braille" is a reference to the writing system's inventor in our world. Notably this was absent in the original Japanese, where it was simply called "dot-writing".
  • In Bloodborne, the imposter doctor Iofeska mentions the Hypocratic Oath. Hippocrates presumably does not exist in the Bloodborne setting however.
  • In Tales of Vesperia, the party can cook a Scottish Egg or Japanese Stew, despite Terca Lumereis containing neither Scotland nor Japan.
  • Since England and its history never existed in Strangereal, where the hell did all the Arthurian references in Ace Combat Zero: The Belkan War come from?

    Webcomics 
  • Exiern:
    • High Fantasy world with no relation to Earth, much less Japan, apparently has Yaoi Porn, mentioned by name.
    • and Band-Aids.
    • and Hallmark cards, although at least the characters have the good grace to admit they don't know exactly what greeting cards are.
  • According to Dinosaur Comics' summary of the play, Hamlet said, "Record scratch! Say WHAAAAAT?" when he found out how his father died.
    Alt Text: Hamlet has to say "record scratch" because records aren't invented yet so you can't make the sound otherwise, HOW IS THIS NOT OBVIOUS
  • In one of the The Order of the Stick strips appearing in Dragon Magazine, Durkon accuses Vaarsuvius of being a Grammar Nazi, using the phrase "Uptight English teacher". Vaarsuvius responds with confusion at the word 'English' since the language they are speaking is actually 'Common'.
  • Despite taking place in a quasi-old-west fantasy world nothing like our own, the gun models featured in 6 Gun Mage - and there are a lot of them - are called by their Real Life names, which tend to reference years, inventors, and/or countries of origin.
  • Awful Hospital: Celia says that "a hungry Moldsucker slithers like lightning", although she would never have experienced lightning given that she lives inside a human corpse. This is promptly lampshaded in the following exchange:
    Fern: ...how exactly do you know what lightning is?
    Celia: Why wouldn't I?
    Fern: Becau...never mind. Don't want to know.

    Web Original 
  • Similarly to the Discworld example above, Neopets has gypsies despite there being no Egypt to derive their name from — the equivalent is called the Lost Desert.

    Western Animation 
  • In the animated The Return of the King, Samwise's response to Gollum's final attack is a very animated "Gooood help us!" (Although the word might have referred to Eru Ilúvatar, it's still out of place as he received direct worship very rarely.)
  • The Flintstones apparently live in the United States and celebrate Christmas. Flintstone Theming in general can yield quite a lot of this trope.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic:
    • Ponies say "Oh my gosh", without an "Oh my god".
    • In the same sense, Rainbow Dash likes to exclaim "For Pete's sake!" once in a while, even though St. Peter is also a Christian figure.
    • In Boast Busters, Spike mentions a Fu Manchu moustache. How exactly does a world of magical talking ponies know about a human-created Yellow Peril villain?
      • In the same episode, Twilight calls Spike "Romeo". Perhaps there was some pony version of Shakespeare?
    • In "Suited for Success", when Rarity is designing dresses for the other ponies, Fluttershy specifically requests French Haute Couture, despite being in a universe where France (presumably) doesn't exist. In addition, in "The Cutie Pox", one of Apple Bloom's symptoms is a talent for speaking in French (and she even identifies it as "Français" in her dialogue).
    • And in 'Call of the Cutie', one thing Rainbow Dash checks for talents is karate. Two-for-one here: why would ponies use a word derived from the Okinawan word for 'hand'?
    • "Hearth's Warming Eve" uses the term "helping hand", even though no character up until that point had hands (except Spike, but the term "claws" would be more appropriate).
    • In "Pinkie Pride", Cheese Sandwich mentions Hawaiian shirts in one of his songs.
    • In "Three's a Crowd", Discord asks for Swiss cheese and Abyssinian pastry (though admittedly, this isn't really out of character for him).
    • Lampshaded in "Slice of Life", when Doctor Whooves asks what is this 'man' is that the bowling alley ponies keep referring to.
    • In "Hearthbreakers", Maud Pie mentions Mohs Scale of Hardness. Mohs was the surname of the German person who invented it.
  • In The Land Before Time IV, during the song "Who Needs You?" July is mentioned, millions of years before the Roman calendar was invented.
    • In that particular number, Ichy mentions needing Dil like he needs "a sock on his nose" (though this may refer to "sock" as a slang term for a punch).
    • In the second film, one of the antagonists calls himself a Struthiomimus at one point. While he is in fact a Struthiomimus, he logically shouldn't even know what that word is as he was born (and likely died) long before his own species was named. Made even weirder by the fact that the series usually invokes "Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp"".
    • And of course, "The Lone Dinosaur".
  • In one Sonic SatAM episode, Sonic asked Nicole to repeat some Techno Babble "in English."
    • Lampshaded in "Sonic Conversion".
      Robotnik: Oh, please. Something is rotten in Topeka... wherever that is.
    • Sonic also name checks Axl Rose in the show's pilot episode as well
  • The phrase "dime a dozen" has been used on Star Wars: The Clone Wars. The main currency of the galaxy is credits, and they've been shown in various forms, so it's possible there is some kind of equivalent to a dime.
  • A visual edition occurs in Transformers Prime. The 'bots in Prime categorically lack noses. (Some of them kind of have a nose suggested by the extension of a forehead decoration, but it's still basically on their forehead). Yet, somehow, they end up using the same Autobot logo as the rest of the franchise, which does indeed feature a stylized nose where noses actually go. Illustrated here.
  • In The Legend of Korra, Varrick mentions that "Lyme disease is a serious killer", despite there being no Lyme for the disease to be named after. Likewise, Morse code is mentioned, even though there was no Samuel Morse to invent it. There's also the use of the term 'Jeep' to refer to off-road vehicles, which came from slurring the initials GP (General Purpose) even though the Avatar world doesn't use the Latin alphabet.
    • Both averted and played straight in a later episode: upon being shown a gun for the first time, a character can't think of any word to describe it except "a thing" (owing to the setting's Fantasy Gun Control). However, later in the same episode, they call it "a cannon".
      • This one could be justified if we remember that cannons do exist in the setting, they are just completely different from our ownnote .
    • In the second season, Tenzin refers to the Avatar State as not being a "booster rocket". There's really no way the phrase could make sense in the setting.
  • In the Penn Zero: Part-Time Hero episode "Brainzburgerz" Sashi uses the phrase Five-Finger Discount even though the show's characters have Four-Fingered Hands.

    Real Life 
  • As noted in the Reality Is Unrealistic page, some people like to claim that things set in the Soviet era where the characters exclaim "My God!" or the like are an example of this trope since a common stereotype for the Soviet Union is complete atheism. Even ignoring the fact that such terms would still linger as holdovers for a long time to come (and the fact that atheists are perfectly capable of using religious swears, even if they don't believe in them), there's also the fact that the USSR never became completely irreligious. Despite attempts at its inception to enforce atheism, the sheer cultural and political influence of the Russian Orthodox Church in general made it impossible to ever completely implement. Then Stalin reduced the anti-religious regulation to get the Russian Orthodox Church on his side in World War II. And though Khrushchev tried to re-implement said regulations, from the Brezhnev era onward they were again relaxed.
    • Also, words can sometimes change their meaning over time, but remain unchanged in their form, appearing absurd and anachronistic in old texts. "Paging" was once the act of sending a page to fetch someone in a crowded room, for example, centuries before the invention of the internet. In post-feudal eras, the term 'paging' continued to be used to call for someone who may or may not be present in a room. The same use of the term to summon someone over an intercom has lasted from before pagers were invented to long after they've become obsolete.

http://tvtropes.org/pmwiki/pmwiki.php/Main/OrphanedEtymology