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Speech-Impaired Animal
"Is it just me, or is there something eerie about Scooby? He's not anthropomorphic, exactly, he just speaks English. With a canine accent. It's as if trying to force his tortured vocal cords to form sounds that no loving God ever intended. Was he the result of some madman's blasphemous experiments in creating life? Are the ghosts he's chasing really the ghosts of his own inhuman mind? Should I get out more?"
Lore Sj÷berg, The Book of Ratings

A mandatory requirement for most cartoons since the 1960s — a Non-Human Sidekick that could almost, but not quite, speak English. Often they were smarter than anyone else in the cast. When they weren't, they were dumber than everyone else in the cast.

Like Talking Animals, they are still animals in almost every other way, particularly when it comes to instincts, priorities and motivations. They very rarely wear clothes, and they are often vocally proud of the fact they aren't human.

Many SIAs lack hands and walk on all fours, negating the possibility of performing many human tasks and behavior, though a few examples are bipedal even if their species isn't naturally so. However, when required by a joke, the SIA can sometimes act like the mostly anthropomorphic Funny Animal (Scooby dressing up in a costume to aid one of Shaggy's elaborate deceptions), the semi-anthropomorphic Civilized Animal (Astro walking with his arm around George). Sometimes, the SIA can talk eloquently, but no one except maybe other SIAs hear them.

This trope is particularly associated with works by Hanna-Barbera.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Anime and Manga 
  • Bakarasu from Mazinger Z and Great Mazinger was a raven ("Bakarasu" roughly means "Dumb crow") Boss and his gang used as a lookout or a messenger. In return, Bakarasu mocked Boss, annoyed him and drove him mad. Bakarasu strangely could talk—and laugh, usually at Boss—and theoretically it worked alongside Boss, Nuke and Mucha, but in reality it did whatever it pleased. It only had one appearance in Mazinger Z (episode 69), but he showed up in several Great Mazinger episodes.
  • In Digimon Tamers, Marine Angemon's dialogue is unique in that he speaks like he's underwater. Thankfully, his Tamer, Kenta, can understand him. The dub just has Marine Angemon speak short sentences.
  • Yumeria: Borderline case: Koneko, Neneko's kitten, who says only "Nono"; this is not the Japanese onomatopoeia for "meow".
  • Fullmetal Alchemist: Shou Tucker created two chimeras that could understand and attempt to replicate human speech. They are not cute. They are Tear Jerking Nightmare Fuel creatures, especially once you realize what they're made out of. Poor Nina...
  • On the other side of the scale, Hayate the Combat Butler's Tama. Fully a normal (white) tiger... from Africa... who has a license as a level 2 boiler technician, and hides the fact that he can talk from Maria and Nagi (he doesn't want to reveal his abilities to them, others he's fine with though.) He's walking the line between this trope and Funny Animal. Also fully aware of the role he's been given and the danger he'd be in if anyone normal found out.
    • He's also the only animal in the series who shows this. No other animal has even shown a hint of the abilities he has.

    Comic Books 
  • The Winslow, the indestructible, cute, toothy idol of the vast majority of religions in the galaxy from Buck Godot: Zap Gun for Hire.
    Hi!
  • (Very) occasionally, Donald Duck's speech impediment is mentioned in his comics. It usually involves him trying to find a way to get over it.

    Film 
  • Enchanted has Pip the Chipmunk who is a full Talking Animal in Andalasia but is limited to Rufus style squeaks and gestures in our world. Once he gets back to Andalasia he publishes a book about his experience called Silence Isn't Golden.
  • Dexter the monkey from Night at the Museum is very similar to Abu (see Disney's Aladdin) in terms of this trope, only without the clothes.
  • Jack the Monkey from Pirates of the Caribbean. The best part? Those are spontaneous actions by the monkey! It wasn't supposed to turn around and return Barbossa's incredulous look...along with a bunch of the other Jack the Monkey moments.
  • The Cat From Outer Space lost the power to speak, along with telekinesis, whenever its alien-tech collar was removed.
  • Madagascar: The animals sort of fit. They can understand themselves fine, but when, for example, Alex tries to speak to humans, all the humans hear is roaring. However, some of the animals move in a more humanoid manner (Alex and Gloria).
  • In The Lion King, Ed the Hyena can't speak English like Banzai and Shenzi. He only can laugh.

    Literature 
  • In Gone, Pack Leader, in a non-comedic way.
  • In Half Magic, a girl wishes her cat could speak while holding a magic coin that grants your wishes... but only half-way. The cat could speak, but all its words began, ended, or replaced a syllable with the sound "fitz."
  • In The Dark Tower series, a strange creature called Oy can mimic human words, but usually leaves off the first consonant. His species is apparently fairly intelligent, as one was reported to be able to do basic arithmetic.
  • Discworld Averted with Gaspode the "Wonder Dog", who can talk just fine except most people only hear him on the subliminal level because few of them are prepared to believe a dog can talk.

    Live Action TV 
  • Henrietta Pussycat from Mister Rogers' Neighborhood. Lore Sj÷berg once noted:
    I found it particularly eerie that she could only speak English about once every five words; the rest was "meow." It was like the inverse of the Smurf language.
    • An earlier show featuring her had only knowing three English words: "telephone", "wonderful", and "Misterogers" [sic].
  • Eddie on Frasier. He's a regular dog, except he understands what's happening to a highly intelligent degree.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Beetle Bailey: Sgt. Snorkel's dog Otto just barely manages it in a few individual strips, turning his growls into something resembling speech. Most of the time he sticks to using thought bubbles to comment on things, sort of like Garfield.

    Video Games 
  • In The Secret of Monkey Island, you can talk to the dog in the SCUMM BAR. It mainly ruffs and growls but will occasionally speak story specific words in perfect English. It becomes Hilarious in Hindsight in the special edition with the dog being voiced by a human.

    Web Animation 
  • All of the Happy Tree Friends characters seem to be Speaking Simlish, but if you listen closely you can make out a few words here and there, so they may be an extreme example of this trope.

    Web Comic 

    Western Animation 
  • Abu from Aladdin could not form any recognizable words (although he did say Aladdin's name on at least a couple occasions), but his mannerisms, expressions, and attempts to communicate demonstrate the SIA's knack for almost speaking with people. Abu does wear clothes, but is clearly not a Funny Animal. The people in the movie treat him as a monkey, and his motives and capabilities reflect this. Contrast with Iago, a Talking Animal who speaks English with grating clarity, and even has a knack for mimicking voices, but still has no physical capabilities beyond that of a parrot. Apparently the idea is Iago lives in a world of speech impaired animals, but his parrot's ability to speak makes him, in effect, a speech impaired animal without the speech impediment.

    In The Return of Jafar, it is implied that Jafar somehow taught him to speak when Jafar declares "If it weren't for me, you'd still be in a cage at the bazaar, squawking "Polly wants a cracker"!".
    • Jafar is a sorceror.
    • One needs to listen very closely to make out Abu's words. Aladdin seems to understand him quite well. And in the TV-series, Abu's chattering is even clearer and closer to words.
  • 'Courage the Cowardly Dog'': Courage seems unable to talk to humans, though he would frequently talk to non-humans and the audience in early seasons. When he does try to communicate with them (usually to warn them of the Monster of the Week) he not only makes gestures and sounds, but also takes the shape of horrible things that scared him. note 
  • Curious George: Frank Welker repeats Abu's mannerisms in his performances as George.
  • Astro from 'The Jetsons''. (In fact it is from 1962 and older than Scooby). The 80's episodes gave us Orbitty (also voiced by Welker).
    • In "Elroy's Mob", Astro also writes the same way he speaks.
  • 'Futurama gave us Nibbler (voiced by Frank Welker). Nibbler is intelligent, though usually Obfuscating Stupidity. He occasionally shows more intelligence by vocalizing rapidly and gesturing wildly to indicate danger. And then there's the fact that he's actually a member of an ancient race that can manipulate the minds of others to make it seem like he's speaking their language.
  • Rufus from 'Kim Possible''.
  • Scooby-Doo: The archetype is the title character, who can speak English, but begins almost every word with an "r", which he rolls a tiny bit, and his voice is a bit growly.
    • Weirdly, Scrappy Doo doesn't have the same impediment. He is from a younger generation than Scooby is, so perhaps the Doos are evolving.
  • Wonder Dog from 'Superfriends''.
  • Gromit from 'Wallace & Gromit'' was completely mute, but his non-verbal expressiveness qualifies him for this trope.
  • Brain from 'Inspector Gadget''. During his cameo episode in the spinoff, he's given a voice collar. (revealing that he's understandably shell-shocked.)
  • Shag the sheepdog from Road Rovers.
  • Spot the cat from 'Hong Kong Phooey''. Which is odd because Hong Kong Phooey himself is a fully anthropomorphic dog.
  • Muttley from 'Wacky Races and 'Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines.
  • The Simpsons: Played a few times with the Simpson's dog, Santa's Little Helper.
    Bart! Bart! Bartbartbart!
    Weeee loooooveee youuuuu!
    Chewy?
  • Mega Man: Rush in the Ruby-Spears cartoon spoke like Scooby-Doo. He was also responsible for all the non-quip comic-relief, which manifested at arbitrary and occasionally inappropriate moments.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic: Angel, Fluttershy's pet(?) bunny communicates through easily-understood pantomime Ó la Gromit. Later it's shown that Fluttershy can also translate animal sounds; Angel being The Voiceless anyway is justified since rabbits don't make "animal sounds."
  • Played with in one Looney Tunes cartoon with Bob McKimson's hound - without Foghorn Leghorn around to bother him, he was getting bothered byWesternAnimation/Daffy Duck. As his master, Mrs. Elmer Fudd, hears the parson is visiting for supper and doesn't know what to cook, the dog starts playing Charades with her, pantomiming roast duck. She's not good at playing, and when she finally guesses "roast dog", he has enough and shouts "NO, roast DUCK! D-U-C-K, DUCK! Sheeeesh!!!"
  • Perry from Phineas and Ferb never talks other than his little growl, but he's an intelligent character (when he's not covering it up) who seems to quite easily be able to communicate with his nemesis, Dr. Heinz Doofenshmirtz. Less with the OWCA which he works for. He appears to be able to converse with Doofenshmirtz through mild expressions and sometimes hand gestures (thumbs up), despite being stoic and even managed to make an impression of Candace once.
    Dr. Doofenshmirtz: "Don't you roll your eyes at me, Perry the Platypus!"
    • And let's not forget...
    Dr. Doofenshmirtz: "Why are you looking at me like I'm an idiot?"
    • Sometimes it's implied that Doofenshmirtz is just interpreting blank expressions however is funniest. Especially when he tells his plan to a potted plant (Perry didn't show up that day) and reacts to its nonexistent responses.
  • A good few animated adaptations from the 80's seemed to gain a SIA as a Team Pet or having one as part of the original cast:

Speaks Fluent AnimalAnimal Anthropomorphism TropesSprouting Ears
Uplifted AnimalSliding Scale of AnthropomorphismNearly Normal Animal
Scooby-Dooby DoorsThe Dark Age of AnimationTeam Pet
Screwy SquirrelCartoon CharactersTalking Animal

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