TELEGRAM MESSAGES NEVER CONTAIN PERIODS STOP
ANY PERIOD IS REPLACED BY A STOP STOP
WHEN READ ALOUD THE STOP IS ALSO READ ALOUD STOP
IT WAS ORIGINALLY A JOKE
BUT IT IS NOT KNOWN AS ONE BY MODERN AUDIENCES
WHERE IT IS EXPECTED FOR READING A TELEGRAM STOP
SO EVEN WHERE IT CAUSED CONFUSION IT DIDN'T STOP STOP
COMPARE READING THE STAGE DIRECTIONS OUT LOUD STOP
This trope arose because Morse Code did not have a method to transmit punctuation beyond spelling it out (writing down "comma", or most famously, a full stop
). Additionally it lacks casing, meaning the entire message is in capital letters.
Telegrams charged by the word; therefore, the objective was to make the message with as few words as possible while still being clear. Marks of punctuation, such as the comma, period, dash, colon, etc., are not transmitted in telegrams unless the sender specifically requests it, and then they are counted and charged for, as one word each.
From the 1928 booklet, "HOW TO WRITE TELEGRAMS PROPERLY
If you do not intend to stipulate that marks of punctuation be transmitted, write your message without punctuation and read it carefully to make sure that it is not ambiguous. If it seems impossible to convey your meaning clearly without the use of punctuation, use may be made of the celebrated word "stop," which is known the world over as the official telegraphic or cable word for "period."
This is a Broken Trope
these days, since International Morse Code uses .-.-.- for periods. Or you could just send a text message
Comic Books Stop
- In ˇThree Amigos!, the title characters receive a telegram from Mexico STOP They confuse a "Stop" in the message for a STOP and think that "the infamous El Guapo" sent the message, but they are actually supposed to stop El Guapo (the leader of a gang of bandits) STOP
Telegram: Three Amigos, Hollywood, California. You are very great. One hundred thousand pesos to come to Santa Poco. Put on show. Stop the infamous El Guapo
- In Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band the protagonists receive a telegram from BD Hoffler, president of Big Deal Records STOP
Telegram: We hear your music is great STOP We need a tape of your songs and we need it now STOP And if we like your music we'll make you superstars and the money will never stop STOP Signed BD Hoffler, Hollywood
- It's a Wonderful Life: Sam Wainwright sends a telegram from London when he hears George is in trouble STOP Ernie reads it aloud, including the stops STOP
Mr. Gower cabled you need cash, stop. My office instructed to advance you up to twenty-five thousand dollars, stop. Hee Haw and Merry Christmas! Sam Wainwright.
- In The Sound of Music, Liesl sends the telegram "Dear Rolf. Stop. Don't stop!" STOP
- Played with in The Ladies Man when the mailman pretends a letter for the title character is a telegram and says, "Dear Leon STOP The Seventies are over... STOP."
Live-Action TV Stop
- There's a Polish joke back from the Communist era: Poland was dependent on deliveries of natural gas and oil from the USSR. One day, Polish ice hockey team has defeated the USSR team at the Olympics. The next day, the Polish government receives a telegram from the USSR government:
- Two business partners receive a telegram at their office; the new secretary begins reading it off to one of them. Unfamiliar with the "STOP" convention, she reads the word out loud instead of simply pausing. After hearing her say "STOP" about a half-dozen times, the other partner yells from the inner office, "Get your hands off her and let her finish!"
- Blackadder Goes Forth, episode "Major Star": Used as a joke by Blackadder to insult Charlie Chaplin, and in the same episode Chaplin took revenge in the same format STOP
Captain Blackadder: Yes... take down a telegram, Bob. To Mr. Charlie Chaplin, Sennett Studios, Hollywood, California. Congrats STOP Have found only person in world less funny than you STOP Name Baldrick STOP Signed E. Blackadder STOP Oh, and put a P.S.: please, please, please STOP
Captain Darling: We received a telegram from Mr Chaplin himself at Sennett Studios: Twice nightly filming of my films in trenches: excellent idea STOP But must insist that E. Blackadder be projectionist STOP P.S. Don't let him ever... STOP.
- Used in the episode "The Late Captain Pierce" of M*A*S*H when Hawkeye sends a telegram to his father to let them know he is alive and safe. He even recites his intended message to Klinger, using TELEGRAM SPEAK STOP He also integrates the STOP directions into his message.
Hawkeye: Dear Dad, stop. I am not dead, stop. Hope you are the same, stop. Thinking of selling my clubs? Stop. Spending the insurance money? Stop.
- Star Trek: Voyager. Tuvok and Paris are on the holodeck playing "The Adventures of Captain Proton" (a Flash Gordon-expy character).
Paris: It's a message to Captain Proton from the President of Earth. Intercepted communications between Doctor Chaotica and Arachnia STOP. Chaotica at war with aliens from Fifth Dimension STOP. Must strike now to disable Death Ray__
Tuvok: Stop. Please summarise the message.
- Veronica Mars had a blackly humorous one of these in the episode "Lord of the Bling"; at Lynn Echolls' funeral, Aaron asks Logan if he's heard from his half-sister Trina:
Logan: She sent a telegram. "Heartbroken. Stop. Can't make it back from Sydney. Stop. Underwater scene shoot tomorrow. Stop. Entire crew said prayer for Mom. Stop. Love you. Stop."
Western Animation Stop
- In the musical Crazy For You, Bobby receives a telegram from his mother and reads it out loud.
Bobby: "Dear Fat-head. Stop." Yep. It’s Mom. "Stop this nonsense. Stop. This is your final notice. Stop." Sounds like an electric bill. "Get back here on next train. Stop. Don’t stop. Stop. Will stop allowance if you stop. Stop. Your loving mother. Stop. P.S. Your uncle stopped by." I wish she’d write letters.
- Later this exchange occurs:
Polly: Would ya stop this?
Bobby: You sound like my mother.
Web Animation Stop
- Looney Tunes examples:
We just received another telegram, Station GOMG. Stop. Your program coming in great. Stop. Think it's fine. Stop. Glad to hear your amateurs. Stop. They're all very funny. [camera pans back to show her continually pushing away the deliveryman as he keeps trying to hold her] Stop! Keep up the good work. Stop! Good luck. STOP! The gang. STOP! [she pushes him offscreen and he crashes]
- Pinky and the Brain had one in their parody of The Third Man:
PINKY START PACKING STOP COME TO VIENNA STOP GO TO 123B RUEGGERSTRASSE STOP
- Pinky, as narrator, comments that it took him a long time due to all the stopping.
- Lots of it in Balto during the Nome-Juneau transmission scenes.
- Stewie and Brian of Family Guy have a similar gag in one episode while speaking on walkie-talkies. Stewie informs Brian that he has to end all of his transmissions with the word "over," which causes a misunderstanding when Brian actually ends a sentence with the word "over."
- In an earlier episode of The Simpsons, Grandpa decides that upon his death he will leave Lisa all the personal correspondence in which he has engaged. She only gets to read one telegram from Boris Karloff, telling Grandpa to stop harassing him.
- The Marvelous Misadventures of Flapjack: Done by Lolly Poopdeck when he delivers a 'comedy telegram' in "Who's Moochin' Who?":
IF YOU WANT TO TIP ME DON'T STOP
- Happens at the beginning of the classic Disney short, The Country Cousin, an adaptation of the Aesop's Fable, The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse.
- The French dub of Inspector Gadget has him always reading Chief Quimby's exploding messages this way.
- Used on the modern Quick Draw McGraw short "Cit-E-Scape", when Quick Draw and Baba Looey are walking while reading a telegram, stopping every time they hit the "stop" part of the message.
Quick Draw: You are the best lawman in the west. Stop. Crime is out of control in the east. Stop. Please help us. Stop. We're scared.
Baba Looey: Stop!
Quick Draw: How'd you know that's what it said?
Baba Looey: No, Quick Draw. We're here!
Web Comics Stop
- From Homestar Runner:
"Sir Strong Bad STOP How do you operate the 'telegramophone' whilst
wearing gentlemans' sporting gloves STOP Signed, Sir Elsington Halstindingdingworth STOP"
STINGER HERE STOP