Unicorn: Butterfly, even one [unicorn]? Tell me that you saw only one.
Butterfly: One? "One alone, to be my own..." "Up goes downwind, up go down!" "Go and catch a falling star..."
Unicorn: Serves me right for even asking you; all butterflies know is songs and poetry and anything else they hear. I guess you mean well. Fly away butterfly.
Butterfly: "Oh, I must take the A train." "Oh, I am a cook and a captain bold and the mate of the Nancy brig." "Has anybody here seen Kelly?"This is when a character communicates almost solely by using someone else's words: it can be speeches, books, songs, movies, TV, radio, proverbs, The Bible, religious tracts, or other mass media. The reasons for this vary: they may have grown up obsessed with the source material or media, have language or memory problems that makes it impossible for them to speak normally, or their education is almost exclusively the quoted source material to the point they are unable to conceive of language or original thought outside of it. In milder cases, they may only use speech patterns, vocabulary and other affectations, but at full tilt they will only and exclusively communicate through quoting others, perhaps even becoming Lost in Character. This can be especially problematic if the source material is limited in scope. Imagine someone in a scifi setting trying to describe the week's Technobabble issues using only lines from Shakespeare. In the case of characters who are unable rather than unwilling to speak using their own words, this trope can eventually be overcome somewhat like learning a new language, with the character making an effort to address their problem. Those who simply choose to speak this may also drop it, though it's unlikely as it tends to be a defining character trait for many. As to why a character would choose to liberally pepper their speech with quotes, it may be that they're trying to seem smart and cultured, the culture they grew up in encourages it or they feel the source they quote from said it best (so why say it less poetically in your own words?). Going off this last point, authors tend to like this character trait because when using highly symbolic and layered sources it adds a lot of subtext and Genius Bonus for viewers. However if instead the character speaks only through a very narrow range of pop-culture references, they tend to get dated very, very fast (and may become annoying or anachronistic). The longer one of these characters talks, the higher the probability that they say one of "But Wait, There's More!", "Offer Void In Nebraska" or "Slices, Dices, and Makes Julienne Fries". This is a subtrope of Reference Overdosed. May overlap with Motor Mouth and Strange-Syntax Speaker, and Waxing Lyrical if the character uses song lyrics. Compare and contrast Cliché Storm, when all the lines are familiar tropes and sayings. Do not confuse with No Indoor Voice, which is when someone can only speak by shouting out. Something like this has been known to happen from spending too much time on This Very Wiki: TV Tropes Will Ruin Your Vocabulary.
— The Last Unicorn note
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- The people in the Bing commercials (a.k.a. "Search Overload Syndrome").
Anime & Manga
- TK from Angel Beats! tends to speak in English song lyrics and titles. Possibly a parody as it's noted in one episode that despite this he actually speaks poor regular English.
- Occidental Otaku Susana ("Sue") Hopkins from Genshiken 90% of what she says are Anime quotes (often quite obscure, but always relevant).
- Mikoshiba from Monthly Girls' Nozaki-kun Cannot Talk to Women, and parroting Dating Sim quotes are the only thing he can speak to female that he's not familar with.
- The title of I Can't Understand What My Husband is Saying comes from the fact that Kaoru never picks up on Hajime's references.
- Image Comics' Horridus is a Cute Monster Girl who was kept locked in a basement for most of her life, with a TV as her only companion. She learned to talk from it, so most of the things she says are catch phrases and advertising slogans.
- The Joker in The Long Halloween and Dark Victory.
- Egghead, an old villain of Henry Pym. Goliath II (Clint Barton) made fun of it, while defeating him.
Goliath: Dude, I may not be an expert in literary quotations, but something smells rotten in Denmark, and it's you!
- In Tealove's Steamy Adventure and the sequel, there's a running gag that Apple Bloom only speaks in song lyrics.
Applejack said sheepishly: “Failed experiment. Her brain glitched and now she only talks in song lyrics. Not even sensible ones”
“I get knocked down, but I get up again, you’re never gonna keep me down.” Apple Bloom said cheerfully.
Film - Live Action
- The Scarecrow in The Wiz sometimes communicates by reading quotes from the newspaper in his stuffing.
- *batteries not included: Harry only speaks in commercial taglines. He even provides the Title Drop.
- Number Five/Johnny Five does a lot of this in both Short Circuit movies, especially due to his exposure to television in the first film.
- In Explorers, the three kids meet aliens who pick up English from watching television. One did a better job than the other so the latter communicates by speaking out tv catch phrases and clips from old black and white tv recordings.
- Bumblebee from the live action Transformers film had a damaged voice box and could only communicate via his car radio. This turned him into a bit of a Deadpan Snarker. (And one of the soundbites he plays is the alien from Explorers.) His voice was repaired by the end of the first film, but in the sequels he went back to speaking in soundbites.
- Weebo in Flubber uses clips from old Disney films incorporated into her regular speech.
- LV from the British film Little Voice has an incredible talent for mimicking different singers' voices. Towards the end of the movie during a particularly traumatic event, she seems to get "stuck" and only speaks in quotes from different songs and movies. Once everything gets resolved, she's back to normal.
- Variation: In the movie version of Being There, Chance the Gardener doesn't so much speak in shout outs — though his speech does reflect the trope that Realistic Diction Is Unrealistic because it's what he knows from television — as behave in shout outs. He almost unconsciously imitates physical behaviors he sees on the small screen. He can give a confident, hearty handshake to the President of the United States because he saw news footage of someone else giving the President one, and recreates the Orbital Kiss from the original Thomas Crown Affair with a woman who's in love with him when she enters the room at just the right moment.
- The Subtitles For People Who Don't Like The Movie option does this for every character in Monty Python and the Holy Grail, replacing the original dialogue with lines from William Shakespeare.
Film - Animated
- Wreck-Gar and all the Junkions from Transformers: The Movie: just as they apparently patched themselves up with junkyard scraps, their speech was a stew of radio announcers and commercials and such. (Sample dialogue: "Stop, thief! No welcome wagon 'Hello, stranger' with that new coffee flavor for you!") The reason for this being that they intercept Earth transmissions and apparently can't get enough of them.
- Radio from The Brave Little Toaster didn't communicate exclusively through radio phrases, but he did generally talk like a DJ and ocassionally did comments in the form of news reports or radio dramas.
- Ibor from Twice Upon a Time communicates through video clips playing on the TV set that makes up his head.
- In The Last Unicorn, it is the nature of butterflies to speak this way, repeating only snippets of songs and poetry they've overheard.
- In Book of the New Sun, soldiers from the Ascian empire are taught speaking entirely in quotations given by higher-ups. One soldier Severian meets manages to tell a story using these quotations.
- In Brother To Dragons Companion To Owls by Jane Lindskold, the main character can only communicate via quotes from literature. It's heavily implied that she is autistic.
- In The Son of Neptune the harpy Ella has this to a degree. While she can speak in short, original sentences of one to three words each, she's prone to peppering her speech or segueing into quotes from things she's read.
- Echo is also a variant, since she can only speak by repeating some or all of what the people around her say.
- The hermit monks on the Canaan Island in Pelagia and the Black Monk (a Spin-Off of the Erast Fandorin series) are not allowed to speak at all, but their prior may utter five words a day, four of which must be a quote from the Bible.
- The Savage in Aldus Huxley's Brave New World read the collected works of William Shakespeare many times and as a result, he peppers his conversation liberally with lines from plays like The Tempest — hence the title of the book.
- Mrs. Who from A Wrinkle in Time is the second of the three celestial beings who accompany the children on their adventure. She usually speaks in quotations from famous thinkers and writers because she finds it too difficult to craft her own sentences.
- Doctor Who Expanded Universe:
'I,' she said, in the voice of a little girl. 'Know,' said a deep-voiced man with a Southern accent. 'You,' said an elderly woman.
- The Doctor's conversation with Centcomp in the Doctor Who New Adventures novel So Vile a Sin. The system wasn't designed to have a voice of its own, so it speaks "in a jarring mix of words, snipped from media sources".
- The living city in the Sixth Doctor short story "Walkin' City Blues" does likewise. Except instead of choosing the right words, it picks a programme that conveys the impression of what it's trying to say.
- The creature in the Eighth Doctor short story "Transmission Ends" has a form of telepathy in which it communicates with the Doctor by pulling appropriate images out of the Doctor's memory.
- In John W. Campbell's short story The Immortality Seekers, Penton and Blake encounter a Callistan dog-like creature who speaks telepathically by repeating things she's heard people say or think—a living phonograph machine, they call her. She has an editorial ability, though, and only repeats thoughts that are appropriate to a given topic or situation.
- In Too, Too Solid Flesh, one of the android actors undergoes a trauma leaving her able only to speak her lines from Hamlet.
- In the Doctor Who serial "The Mind Robber" the Doctor and co are trapped in the Land of Fiction. One character is Lemuel Gulliver from Gulliver's Travels, whose dialog is all oddly context-appropriate quotes from the book. Other Public Domain Characters appear, but he's the only one that does this.
- Also, in the episode "The Rebel Flesh", a doppelganger of the Doctor is created from the titular Flesh. In his first scene he speaks only in catchphrases from previous Doctors.
- Plato, the talking motorcycle from Team Knight Rider. His rider Trek was the same way.
- Night Court: Nana Visitor plays a homicidal crazy woman with Multiple Personalities . Her personalities are taken from various movies.
- Kung Fu: The Legend Continues: In "Secret Place" the Perp Of The Week is a crazy man who speaks in the voices of various characters: John Wayne, Elvis, Scotty from Star Trek, Popeye, Jack Nicholson, etc. But not Johnny Carson, at least not now, because he's not on any more. (The episode appeared in 1993, when that was a recent occurence.)
Peter: I know how this guy's mind works. He's a split personality, all of them famous. He lives in the pages of TV Guide.
- The Greatest American Hero: On the rare occasions the aliens who gave Ralph the super suit contact him, they manipulate the radio so that one word snippets (from commercials, talk radio, and songs) come across making up a sentence. In the pilot episode, the aliens communicate with Ralph and Bill via radio: they're in Bill's car and the aliens cause Bill's car radio to switch quickly between radio stations, as they use what's already being said on the radio to communicate.
- Whose Line Is It Anyway? had a game where the players had to improvise a scene, speaking only in well-known song titles.
Wayne: Do you know the way to Santa Fe?
Chip: Route 66!
- Brennan's cousin only communicates by quoting Benjamin Franklin until Brennan convinces her to say what she thinks, not what Franklin thought.
- In another episode, a Street Performer who portrays a live bronze statue of William Shakespeare speaks only in Shakespeare quotes; and unless your speech to him is in Shakespeare quotes he won't respond, just stand or sit completely still.
- For a while Hiro in Heroes is only able to communicate in pop-culture references due to his mind being manipulated.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation: The Enterprise encounters a species who communicate entirely in metaphor, and if you don't know the reference you won't be able to understand. The most repeated example "Darmok and Jalad at Tanagra" means two strangers who meet and join forces to fight a common enemy. The episode proved so popular that it is sometimes shown in Communications classes as an example of how common background is necessary to understand someone.
- In John from Cincinnati, John Monad communicated almost entirely by means of repeating phrases that other characters had already said.
- Smash Mouth played with this in the chorus of "Walkin' On The Sun"
So don't delay, act now.
Supplies are running out.
Allow, if you're still alive,
Six to eight years to arrive,
And if you follow there may
Be a tomorrow, but if
The offer's shunned,
You might as well be walking on the sun
- A song by a cappella rock band The House Jacks, "Good Things," has verses composed exclusively of slogans from commercials.
You're in, you're in good hands,note
Have it your way!note
If you don't look good, we don't look goodnote
You deserve a break today!note
- Soul Junk started off making noise-rock with lyrics entirely composed of verses from The Bible. However, with 1955 and subsequent albums, frontman Glen Galloway moved away from this and wrote original lyrics (though even these were heavily influenced by scripture)—this coincided with a switch to playing rap and electronic music. Then Galloway went back to the scripture-as-music approach, hard: he's made it his goal to set the entire Bible to music and record it. He doesn't plan to release most of it (he's well aware that large portions of the Bible don't make for interesting listening) but the albums 1960 and 1961 were results from that project.
- "Ralph Wiggum" by The Bloodhound Boys is a song composing entirely of quotes from Ralph Wiggum of The Simpsons.
- Kim Rosenthal, who many years later would become Mike's second wife in Doonesbury, spoke only in media-derived soundbites when she was a baby.
- Shakespug, a minor character in Get Fuzzy, prefers to speak only in lines from Shakespeare's many works. It's been shown that he can speak normal English, he just prefers not to.
- Perhaps in a bit of foreshadowing what an odd event SHINE 12 would be, Leva Bates ventured into the to get ready for her upcoming match with Christina Von Eerie, thinking if she meditated hard enough (though more likely, passed out) there she would meet her spirit guide. She did and to her bewilderment, it spoke in pop culture references.
- The Chanters in the Dragon Age series are required to only communicate with other people in the verses of the Chant of the Light (a sacred text in the series) as part of their oaths. The player can attempt to mess with them, though they manage not to slip up.
- The Beast in Homeworld Cataclysm communicates only by stringing together intercepted radio chatter. Since this chatter is culled from hundreds of ships it's previously devoured, this is a definite 'played for horror' case.
- In Final Fantasy VII: Crisis Core, Genesis constantly quotes the in-universe play Loveless. Reactions to this vary between confusion, tolerance, and (especially in Sephiroth's case) exasperation.
- Captain Tom Paris in the Star Trek Online mission "Delta Flight". In keeping with his canon characterization as a Fan of the Past, his dialogue is peppered liberally with 20th century pop culture references, to the point where his daughter Lieutenant Commander Miral Paris lampshades it before introducing the Player Character to him.
- In Project X Zone, when a character speaks about something, Xiaomu likes to reference something from that character's game, or reference something pertaining to their voice actor, or any random old Namco game. Turned Up to Eleven in the second game, where she references random video games, anime, and movies.
- In Erfworld when Jack Snipe the foolamancer is mentally incapacitated he speaks mainly in quotations, most notably those of "The Fool" in William Shakespeare's King Lear.
- Pv P has the character the LOLbat, a Batman parody who always speaks in internet memes.
- In Rusty and Co., the zombie speaks only in proverbs and proverbial cliches.
- Two Lumps: When they did a story arc based on The Wizard Of Oz, the Copycattin' Lion could only speak in other people's words.
- The Sparrow Hill Road series has Gary the car, who communicates by twisting his radio dial to songs that give appropriate voice to his feelings.
- SCP-1502 of the SCP Foundation is a small robot designed to be obsessed with Boy Meets World, and which speaks only in Shawn Hunter's quotes from the series, as well as increasingly identifying itself with the character.
- In the Transformers stories for Shattered Glass, Beachcomber has a faulty processor, and after the Autobots land on Earth he starts speaking almost exclusively in song lyrics from the 60s and 70s, almost as if he were picking up a radio station.
- In commodoreHUSTLE, after Beej has every single internet meme uploaded directly into his brain by Paul, he can only speak in memes. (He gets better. Mostly.)
- One of the robot network executives in Futurama talks only in TV catchphrases.
- Holt from The Cleveland Show is prone to this.
- Clara's retarded cousin Bleh from Drawn Together speaks only in reviews of the film I Am Sam.
- Peter being mugged by movie critic Gene Shalit on Family Guy.
Gene: Don't Panic Room, I'm not going to William Hurt you. I only want your Tango & Cash. So just Pay It Forward, and we'll all be Happy Gilmore.Peter: ... What?
- Ned's Newt has about every other thing Newton says. His transformations provide a quick tip as to what the shout out is to.
- During the Heian period in Japan it was in vogue for the aristocrats to know as much classic poetry as possible, and private conversations could well be held entirely in poetry quotations.
- In Real Life members of the Baker Street Irregulars fan club often hold conversations exclusively in quotes from the Sherlock Holmes Canon.
- In some social media sites, particularly ones with character limits (Twitter, Imgur) where some users practically do nothing else but quote their favourite movie lines or songs.