troperville

tools

toys


main index

Narrative

Genre

Media

Topical Tropes

Other Categories

TV Tropes Org
random
Speaks in Shout-Outs
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?"
The Last Unicorn note 

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.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Advertising 
  • 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).

    Comic Books 

    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.
  • 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.

    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.

    Literature 
  • 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 he peppers his conversation liberally with lines from William Shakespeare 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:
    • 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".
    '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 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.

    Live-Action TV 
  • 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.
  • Bones:
    • Brennan's cousin (played by her real-life sister) 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.
  • Abed from Community embodies this trope.
  • 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.
  • John, from John From Cincinnati communicated almost entirely by means of repeating phrases that other characters had already said.

    Music 
  • 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.

    Newspaper Cartoons 
  • 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.

    Theatre 
  • In The Wiz, the Scarecrow communicates by reading quotes from the newspaper in his stuffing. His wish is to have a brain so he can have thoughts of his own.

    Video Games 
  • 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.

    Webcomics 

    Web Original 

    Western Animation 

    Real Life 
  • 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.


Speaks In BinaryLanguage TropesSpock Speak
Speak In UnisonDialogueSpeech-Bubble Censoring
Reference OverdosedShout-Outs IndexQuote-to-Quote Combat

alternative title(s): Speak In Shout Outs
random
TV Tropes by TV Tropes Foundation, LLC is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported License.
Permissions beyond the scope of this license may be available from thestaff@tvtropes.org.
Privacy Policy
44829
39