->''"We can't be silent \\
Cause they might be giants \\
And what're we gonna do, unless they are?"''
-->-- "'''They Might Be Giants'''", ''Music/{{Flood}}''

A band founded in 1982 by John Linnell and John Flansburgh. Initially became famous as a part of a wave of AlternativeRock bands to find success between the 1988 creation of Billboard's Modern Rock Tracks chart and the Grunge explosion of 1991Ė92; other like-minded bands that became successful during this time include Music/ThePixies, Music/{{XTC}}, Music/MidnightOil and The Church.

The band is named for the [[Film/TheyMightBeGiants 1971 film]] starring George C. Scott as a man who thinks he's Franchise/SherlockHolmes, and Joanne Woodward as his psychiatrist, a doctor whose name happens to be Watson. The name of ''that'' film is a reference to ''Literature/DonQuixote'' (that's why he attacked the windmills, you know)... which was itself a sideways reference to Literature/TheBible.

The official unofficial band of TV Tropes Wiki.

They often perform songs attributed to animated projects, or other forms of television entertainment. They sing the theme songs to ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle'', ''WesternAnimation/MickeyMouseClubhouse'' and ''Higglytown Heroes'', as well as the film ''Film/TheReplacements2000'' and wrote Dr. Evil's theme in ''Series/AustinPowersTheSpyWhoShaggedMe'' (in the style of Shirley Bassey). Some older readers may remember the videos made for two songs from their 1990 album ''Music/{{Flood}}'', "Particle Man" and their cover of The Four Lads' song "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)", on ''WesternAnimation/TinyToonAdventures''. Others might remember their late '90s ShoutOut to the cartoon ''WesternAnimation/CourageTheCowardlyDog'', which, along with several other their music videos, would later appear on ''WesternAnimation/KaBlam''. They also worked with the creators of ''WebAnimation/HomestarRunner'', resulting in an official music video for "Experimental Film" starring the H*R cast, as well as some jam sessions with the Homestar puppet. As well, "Birdhouse In Your Soul" appears in an episode of ''Series/PushingDaisies''. Their cover of "Dog on Fire" (originally performed by their friend, Music/HuskerDu guitarist Bob Mould) has been the theme song of ''Series/TheDailyShow'' ever since Creator/JonStewart took over.

And finally, the ''WesternAnimation/{{Coraline}}'' movie was initially meant to be a musical featuring TMBG songs specially written for it; the only ones released so far, "Careful What You Pack" and "The Other Father's Song" (which made it into the movie), could be seen as an indicator of WhatCouldHaveBeen. Although The Other Father is voiced by John Linnell while singing his above-mentioned song, he is otherwise voiced by TMBG frequent collaborator [[Literature/CompleteWorldKnowledge John Hodgman]], discussed below.

The band's 1987 music video for their single "Don't Let's Start" was the first ever video by a band on an independent label (Bar/None Records) to go into regular rotation of MTV outside of its alternative block ''120 Minutes'' (which was only created the previous year).

Parodied by the ''Literature/{{Discworld}}'' dwarfish band "We're Certainly Dwarfs". They are also partially responsible for Foul Ole Ron's {{Catchphrase}} "Millennium hand and shrimp" in the same setting, by way of Terry Pratchett dumping a Chinese restaurant menu and the lyrics sheet for ''Particle Man'' into a [[http://www.eskimo.com/~rstarr/poormfa/travesty.html travesty generator.]] Pratchett is confirmed as a fan.

In 2004, they started the Venue Songs project, whereby they would go on tour and write a new song for every venue they played. Venue Songs was released as a [=CD/DVD=] combo, the DVD consisting of videos to the songs, with host segments featuring John Hodgman (author of the ''Literature/CompleteWorldKnowledge'' series) as The Deranged Millionaire, a mysterious figure who had set the band with this challenge. If they failed, they would be forced to give up their magical songwriting talisman forever, leaving Brooklyn vulnerable to attack from The Deranged Millionaire's roving baseball gangs and monstrous creatures. Luckily, they won, and the Millionaire was therefore indebted to do an interview in one of their podcasts. It's one of the funniest things ever recorded.

And the old man whose face you see in all their videos is named William Allen White. He was a famous journalist in Kansas from TheEdwardianEra to UsefulNotes/WorldWarII. The band were secretive of this for quite some time in case his surviving relatives were to sue them.
!!Studio album discography:
* ''Music/TheyMightBeGiantsAlbum'' (1986)
* ''Lincoln'' (1988)
* ''Music/{{Flood}}'' (1990)
* ''Apollo 18'' (1992)
* ''Music/JohnHenry'' (1994)
* ''Factory Showroom'' (1996)
* ''Long Tall Weekend'' (1999) (The first album ever exclusively released over the internet.)
* ''Mink Car'' (2001)
* ''The Spine'' (2004)
* ''The Else'' (2007)
* ''Join Us'' (2011)
* ''Nanobots'' (2013)
* ''Glean'' (2015)
* ''Phone Power'' (2016)
* ''I Like Fun'' (2018)

!!Children's album discography
* ''No!'' (2002)
* ''Here Come the [=ABCs=]'' (2005)
* ''Here Come the 123s'' (2008)
* ''Here Comes Science'' (2009)
* ''Why?'' (2015)

!!Tropes that got their names from TMBG:
* IstanbulNotConstantinople [[note]]Their version was a cover version, but is the most famous version of the song.[[/note]]
* HellHotel

!!Series that got their names from TMBG:
* Machinima/MuseumOfIdiots
!!Tropes and other entries associated with the band include:
* AccidentalMisnaming:
** People frequently get the band's name wrong. "There May Be Giants" and "There Must Be Giants" are some of the most common examples. This was immortalized in the untitled 13th track of ''Miscellaneous T'', where a Dial-A-Song caller named Gloria refers to the band as "There Might Be Giants," "There May Be Giants" and "They May Be Giants" all in quick succession.
** Another example comes to the intro for "They Got Lost" off "Severe Tire Damage" - "Ladies and Gentlemen, put your hands together for They Must Be Giants!"
** An edition of the band's podcast "hosted" by a speech synthesis program added "Ain't They Giants?" and "Might Be Giant" to the list.
* AIIsACrapshoot: The video for "Thinking Machine."
* AllLoveIsUnrequited: "Withered Hope."
* AlterEgoActing: They've been their own opening act on several occasions, posing as Sapphire Bullets, "the only They Might Be Giants tribute band [[Music/TheClash that matters]]."
* AmbiguousSyntax: As pointed out by an interpretation of a line in Marty Beller Mask, "It's been fifteen long years since I put on the Marty mask", either the narrator's been wearing the mask for fifteen years, or it's the first time in fifteen years he's donned the mask.
** Also, the lyrics to "The World's Address" make (slightly) more sense if you interpret the title as "the world's a dress" (after all, it's "a place that's worn," which would certainly be a "[[{{Pun}} sad pun]].")
** "Dead" begins with "I returned a bag of groceries accidentally taken off the shelf before the expiration date." The next line makes it clear that the narrator doesn't mean asking a clerk for a refund:
-->''I [[{{Reincarnation}} came back as a bag of groceries]] accidentally taken off the shelf before the date stamped on myself''
* AndThereWasMuchRejoicing:
** "When Will You Die?"
--->''On that promised morning\\
We will wake and greet the dawn\\
Knowning that your wicked life is over\\
And that we will carry on''
** The narrator of "Dead" fears this was his end:
--->''Did a large procession wave their torches\\
As my head fell in the basket,\\
And was everybody dancing on the casket?''
* AntiChristmasSong: "Santa's Beard," "We Just Go Nuts At Christmastime," and Mono Puff's "Careless Santa" all fit the bill.
** And for those looking for an Anti-Hanukkah song, they also have "Feast Of Lights."
* ArsonMurderAndJaywalking: "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair"
* AttackOfTheFiftyFootWhatever: Shows up in some of their music videos:
** "With the Dark" has a GiantSquid, which tries to kidnap Linnell at one point.
** "Icky" has the titular icky guy growing to giant size and climbing buildings ''Film/KingKong'' style.
* AudienceParticipationSong: Quite a few. In live performances of "Drink", The Audience is requested to chant "Drink! Drink!" whenever the word 'drink' is sung during the chorus, for "Careful What You Pack", the stage lights are turned off and the audience is requested to turn on their cellphone lights towards the stage, and "Battle For The Planet Of The Apes" splits the audience into two factions, one chanting "people" when the drums and bass are played, and one chanting "apes" when the keyboards and guitar are played.
** For "Hide Away Folk Family", the audience is encouraged to scream as if they were in {{Hell}} during the bridge.
* AwesomeMcCoolname: The title trio of "Three Might Be Duende": Necropolis Blownapart, Apocryphal Espadrille, and Dystopio Smashedtobits.
* AwfulTruth: This is common theme for the band, which along with the LyricalDissonance that TMBG often employs, gives them a [[BlackComedy darkly comedic]] style. This might help explain their intergenerational appeal, as kids who cut their teeth with the band's childrens' music can easily find deeper and more complex material in TMBG's adult catalogue.
** "Answer"
---> It may take an ocean of whiskey and time
---> To wash all of the letdown out of your mind
---> And this may not be the item you selected but I
---> Am the answer to all your prayers
** "Sometimes A Lonely Way"
---> We can see it now, the scratches
---> On the back of the door
---> We can see it now, no mistaking
---> What you're better for
** "The World's Address"
---> I know you deceived me, couldn't sleep last night
---> Now my tear stains on the wall reflect an ugly sight
---> I can see your secrets
---> No need to confess
---> Everyone looks naked when you know the world's address
* BeethovenWasAnAlienSpy: "Ballad of UsefulNotes/DavyCrockett [[RecycledINSPACE in Outer Space]]"
* BerserkButton: "Someone keeps moving my chair"
* BlatantLies: Besides their favoritism of the UnreliableNarrator, "Everything Right Is Wrong Again" has a verse repeatedly stating "and now the song is over now"...just before the bridge.
* BigApplesauce: They do several songs referencing their base in New York City.
* BoDiddleyBeat: "Nightgown of The Sullen Moon"
* BrandX:
** To avoid a lawsuit, the song "Nyquil Driver" was listed as "AKA Driver" on the track listing for ''John Henry'', and it's the only cut of John Henry that does not have its lyrics listed in the liner notes. Avoided in the song itself, however.
** In the song ''E Eats Everything'' to avoid saying "Coke": '''H''' ''burns food so horrible/all'' '''I''' ''tastes is smoke''/'''J''' ''just likes drinking juice/and'' '''K''' ''drinks only [[SubvertedRhymeEveryOccasion soda]]''
** One more for Coca-Cola. The band did a series of bumps to advertise Coke. Flansburgh later took one of his bumps and expanded it to the song "Poison Flowers" for his side project, Mono Puff. However, the line "Who's going to wear my sandals stained with Coca-Cola?" was changed to "cherry cola" for the album version.
* BreadEggsMilkSquick: "Lesson 16" starts out as a fairly standard language learning recording, before revealing that the narrator [[YouKilledMyFather killed your father.]]
** "You're On Fire" starts with a bit of light conversation, and then the narrator says, "My point is... hi, your head's on fire."
* BuffySpeak:
** From "No One Knows My Plan": "But they're like the people chained up in the cave / In the Allegory of the People in the Cave by the Greek guy".
** ''Nanobots'' uses this in "Insect Hospital" (" 'Cause we are like, literally, literally, literally") and discusses it more extensively in the appropriately-titled "Stuff Is Way" ("You say, stuff is way / Way to go, go away...")
* CaptainObvious: The entirety of "Older," with lines such as, "You're older than you've ever been / And now you're even older / And now you're older still."
* CallAndResponseSong: "Thinking Machine" is a conversation between a human being (Linell) and a faulty chatbot (Flansburgh).
* CallBack: The song "Hey, Mr. DJ, I Thought You Said We Had a Deal" references three earlier songs from their first two albums:
--> ''Well, I told you about the world (its address)\\
I wonder when they're gonna clean up the mess\\
You know the Rabid Child is still tuning in\\
Chess Piece Face's patience must be wearing thin''.
* ChessWithDeath: Played with in the music video for "I'll Be Haunting You". A man falls off a building and finds himself face-to-face with Death, who challenges him to a game of... ping-pong. [[spoiler:He wins, is restored to life, and then immediately dies ''again'']], at which point Death goes back to the more traditional chess game.
* CloserThanTheyAppear: In "She's Actual Size": "Squares may look distant in a rear view mirror, but they're actual size, actual size to her."
* ConceptAlbum: "They Might Be Giants vs. [=McSweeney's=]", which was (mostly) by the band and meant to accompany ''[=McSweeney's=] Quarterly Concern #6''.
** All the Disney albums are loosely based around, the [=ABCs=], the 123s, and science.
** The Venue Songs, where they wrote a song for each venue they performed at on their 2004 tour.
** John Linnell's "House Of Mayors" EP features a series of instrumental songs named after New York City mayors. The opening track, "Preamble: Fernando Wood" is a speech inspired by Fernando Wood. "Will You Love Me In December As You Do In May?" is a cover of a songs written by mayor James J. Walker. The title track is about fictional museum called the House Of Mayors. Linnell's full length album "State Songs" consists of tracks named after (but not actually about) US states.
* CorruptCorporateExecutive: "Kiss Me, Son of God" is written from the viewpoint of one of these.
* CrapsackWorld:
** "The Shadow Government": the chorus consists primarily of "It's a bad, bad world", and the last non-chorus verse is: "Crawling out of the flophouse/I saw the mayor stealing my junk/I doth protest, citizen's arrest/Now my body's in his trunk." Yeah, and the point of the song is that the oft feared [[TheOmniscientCouncilOfVagueness Shadow Government]] is preferable to the state of affairs in their world. Yeah.
** "Pencil Rain" implies a Crapsack World too: "And none who have witnessed all/ Can speak of a nobler cause/ Than perishing in/ The pencil rain."
* CuteKitten: "It's your kind of kitten".
* DoubleMeaning: The song "Dirt Bike" is vague, but it sounds as though it is advertising a band called "Dirt Bike". The narrator "hears they're over their sophomore jinx/jinks", which could be interpreted in two completely different ways. Either they're over their "sophomor[ic hi-]jinks", which means they are no longer playing childish pranks and are ready to grow up, or they are over their "sophomore jinx", which means that unlike many second-string bands, releasing their second album has not meant the end of their career.
* EducationalSong: Before they even started writing kids' albums, they had songs like "Meet James Ensor" and "Mammal".
* ExcitedShowTitle: ''No!'', and its title track.
* EnhanceButton: Alluded to in "Unpronounceable" - "Zoom and enhance, if that were even a real thing / which it isnít"
* ExtremeDoormat: Mr. Horrible in "Someone Keeps Moving My Chair", who keeps having bad things done to him by the narrator and his Ugliness Men, yet Horrible's only complaint is the song's title.
* ForScience: The title of one of their songs.
* FunnyBackgroundEvent: In any of their older music videos, whichever John isn't singing will be in the background flailing hysterically, spilling coffee cups, and otherwise keeping things interesting.
* FunWithPalindromes: "I Palindrome I" is full of variously palindromic stuff; see the trope page for a full listing.
* GenreBusting: It's difficult to recognize them on a first listen if you don't already know that it's them. To put it simply, very few of their songs sound the same outside of being "quirky."
* GiantSquid: ''Apollo 18'' has one battling a sperm whale on the cover.
** The stop-motion video for "With the Dark" also features one fighting the Johns.
* GoshDangItToHeck: In live "family-friendly" concerts when all ages are present, the band will {{bowdlerize}} the title of "Damn Good Times" to "Dang Good Times."
* GratuitousGreek: "Greek #3," which is "Number Three" translated into Greek.
* HandPuppet: Their sock-puppet mini-show, the Avatars of They, featuring Linnell as the Green Avatar, and Flansburgh as the Blue Avatar. They are projected on the venue screen, and usually thank They Might Be Giants for "opening up" before performing a few songs and exchanging banter, usually alongside cutouts of famous celebrities like MegRyan or the Supreme Court of the United States.
* HeadlessHorseman: Apparently a fascination for They Might Be Giants, who namedrop the Headless Horseman in their songs "You Probably Get That A Lot" and "Headless". "Authenticity Trip" contains references to Sleepy Hollow and to Ichabod Crane, but not to the Horseman himself.
* InconvenientSummons: In their 2015 Dial-a-song tour, their "mother" calls mid-concert.
* IntentionallyAwkwardTitle:
** "Youth Culture Killed My Dog," among several others.
** "Kiss Me, Son of God" makes a few folks squeamish. One of the verses makes it abundantly clear that the song's VillainProtagonist is ''not'' supposed to be Jesus, though.
* InvisibleStomachVisibleFood: [[DiscussedTrope Discussed]] in the song "I Am Invisible" from ''Why?''. The invisible man isn't sure whether the trope applies to him or not.
* UsefulNotes/JamesKPolk: A whole song [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin about him]].
* KarmaHoudini: "Reprehensible", kind of. The only punishment available involves reincarnation and horrible nightmares.
* LastNoteNightmare: "Hide Away, Folk Family", dear God.
** "The Bells Are Ringing" qualifies, once you pay attention to the lyrics.
* LatexPerfection: "Marty Beller Mask".
* LikeIsLikeAComma: Flansburgh is often guilty of this in interviews. He even {{Lampshades}} it in the commentary track of ''Gigantic''.
* LyricalDissonance: A hallmark of the band is to create up-beat songs with humorously dark lyrics. At least a quarter of the songs on any given album will some sort of lyrical dissonance, be it power-pop murder ballads or uptempo break-up waltzes, or piano ditties about death by guillotine.
* MinisculeRocking: Most of their songs are below the three minute mark. Particularly brief songs include the "Fingertips" songs from ''Apollo 18'' that range from 6 seconds to one minute in length and the 9 tracks under a minute on the ''Nanobots'' album.
* MotorMouth: "Letterbox". [[https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BHxk4NeLY3s AND HOW.]]
* MurderBallad: "Erase."
* MustHaveCaffeine: {{Lampshade|Hanging}}d in the documentary about the band, ''Gigantic: A Tale Of Two Johns''. Coffee doesn't actually come up in their lyrics as often as you might think, although it's there.
* NewSoundAlbum: They moved up from "Two guys, an accordion, a guitar and a drum machine" to a full band for their fifth album ''John Henry''. Not everyone was pleased.
* NoSenseOfDirection: While fictional, the song "They Got Lost" is about the band running into this problem (it doesn't help that one of the Johns apparently mistakes a fast food wrapper for a road map).
** [[http://tmbw.net/wiki/They_Got_Lost_%28Song%29 Only, it did actually happen.]] Also the line ''Julie at the station'' refers to Julie Kramer, who works for WFNX in Boston. This song is about that particular incident, though Linnell says it pretty much happens every time they get in a car together.
* OnTheRebound: This is explicitly the subtext (if there is such a thing) of the song "Contrecoup", which discusses the trope in terms of a brain injury resulting from the brain hitting the far side of the brainpan.
* OneSteveLimit: Averted; the band currently consists of nothing but Johns and Dans (with one Marty, who replaced another Dan).
** This is [[LampshadeHanging Lampshaded]] in the lyrics to "When Will You Die":
-->"This is Dan, and that's Dan, and here's Marty on the drums to complete the band, and I'm John and he is also John..."
* OOCIsSeriousBusiness: Flansburgh's generally not direct in his sentiments, but the rare occasions in which he is ("Sometimes A Lonely Way," "Good To Be Alive") are some of the band's most poignant tunes.
* PhraseCatcher: "You Probably Get That A Lot":
-->You probably get that a lot
-->I'll bet that people say that a lot while you
-->Are sarcastically lip-syncing along
-->To words they felt were spoken spontaneously
* RainbowMotif: The song on their science album about the color spectrum is named after the common mnemonic "Roy G. Biv."
* RedOniBlueOni: Flansburgh is more outgoing. Linnell is more reserved.
* ReligionRantSong: It wasn't intended as an anti-religion song, but "Science Is Real" was [[http://www.examiner.com/article/they-might-be-giants-new-album-may-offend-the-religious perceived as being one]] by [[http://tmbw.net/wiki/Talk:Science_Is_Real some of the band's religious fans]]. "Kiss Me, Son of God" could be easily taken as one of these, although it's more a critique of the theocratic abuse of religion than the concept of religion itself.
* RepetitiveAudioGlitch: A subtle case in Ana Ng:
-->And it sticks like a broken record\\
Everything sticks like a broken record\\
Everything sticks until it goes away
* {{Rockumentary}}: ''Gigantic: A Tale of Two Johns''.
* RoundRobin: The song "Exquisite Dead Guy" probably alludes to the Round Robin pastime that is known as Exquisite Corpse.
* RuleOfThree: "Number Three" is all about this:
** The song itself is about itself being the third song the speaker wrote.
** It contains all three three-line rhyme schemes.
** It's the third song on their first album.
** The band claims it's the third song they learned to play.
** At the end of the song, the saxophone hook (taken from a 45 rpm record played at 33 1/3 rpm) repeats three times.
* RunningGag: Flansburgh uploaded videos to [[http://www.youtube.com/user/ParticleMen the band's YouTube channel]] titled "''[Location/Show]'' not going well", wherein he records the audience staring at the band silently and angrily. One of the last of these videos topped it off with the audience singing "Boring! Boring! Why are we waiting?"
* {{Sampling}}:
** "Boat of Car" sampled Music/JohnnyCash "Daddy sang bass"
** Their instrumental cover of Music/FrankSinatra's "Lady is a Tramp" sampled "Tramp" by Music/OtisRedding and Carla Thomas.
** "The Guitar (The Lion Sleeps Tonight)" sampled "The Lion Sleeps Tonight" by The Tokens
** "Now That I Have Everything" sampled "5/4 rock" by Joey D. Viera
** The bridge to "Rhythm Section Want Ad" is Raymond Scott's "Powerhouse".
** The saxophone hook in "Number Three" is from Lou Monte's "Skinny Lena."
** The bridge in "Where Your Eyes Don't Go" is the 'someone's in the kitchen with Dinah' section of "I've Been Working on the Railroad".
* SelfDeprecation: The Avatars of They (the Johns' sock puppet alter-egos) often take chances to belittle their "opening act", They Might Be Giants, when they come onstage, calling them "cool, for a bunch of SUPER-OLD GUYS", saying they're total dicks, and lamenting of their poor treatment of being trapped in a suitcase for weeks on end and being forced to do covers of TMBG songs instead of their own.
* SelfMadeOrphan: Hinted at in "Stone Cold Coup d'Etat", a surreal song about underlings revolting and killing their leaders:
-->Around a dinner table a family says grace
-->And the son sees the secret signal on his sister's face
-->Dad smiles at his wife
-->Daughter reaches for the knife
* SelfTitledAlbum: Their first.
** The band also did a Self-Titled Song. Just to keep things confusing, it's on the third studio album, not the first (self-titled) one. It was originally written when the songs from the first album were, but they decided to hold off releasing it for a few years.
* SellingTheShow: Near the end of the DVDCommentary for ''Giganitc'', the director asks the johns if they have ever had a show where they felt they were "phoning it in". The Johns wisely brush off the question.
* SesameStreetCred: ''Tons'', needless to say.
* SesquipedalianLoquaciousness: Fans enjoy spotting words in TMBG lyrics that have probably not been used in any other song, ever, genre-be-damned. Sometimes the listener is forced to reach for a dictionary. For instance:
** ''Cephalophore'', from "You Probably Get That a Lot". A saint martyred by beheading, thus depicted as carrying their own head.
** ''Cloisonné'', from "Cloisonné". Artwork where colored glass is melted within non-glass borders.
** ''Countrecoup'', from "Contrecoup". A brain injury caused by collision between the brain and the side of the skull opposite the initial blow. The song is a metaphor for OnTheRebound, and it also spouts ''phrenology'' (analysis of the psyche from the shape of a skull), ''craniosophic'' (learned in the ways of the cranium), and ''limerent'' (infatuated)
** ''Métier'', from "Never Knew Love". Synonym of "vocation" or "forte".
** ''Mohenjo-daran'', from "The Mesopotamians". Mohenjo-daro is an archeological site in the Indian sub-continenent that yields results rivaling those from Mesopotamia in age.
** ''Obsequious'', from "Turn Around". It means "[[TheGrovel groveling]]".
** ''Omniverse'', from "One Everything". As a synonym of ''multiverse'', it means "all that could ever be in all dimensions", and it gets serious bonus points for appearing in one of their [[ViewersAreGeniuses children's songs]]. ("We share the same omniverse. Please clean your room. We share the same omniverse.")
** ''Savoir-faire'', from "Extra Savoir-Faire". It means "social grace even in adversity".
** ''Sophomore'', from "Dirt Bike". This is actually a very common word in U.S. English, but see DoubleMeaning.
** "Three Might Be Duende" swings for the bleachers. Framed as a PuttingTheBandBackTogether story, it trots out ''apocryphal'' (of doubtful authenticity), ''espadrille'' (a light, flat-heeled shoe), ''martinet'' (a military disciplinarian), and ''duende'' itself, an Iberian "goblin".
** The song "Money for Dope" almost doesn't count, since it is a PatterSong with no particular theme: the words are essentially random. Nevertheless, "banjolin" (a banjo-mandolin hybrid) is probably unique.
* ShoutOut: Several, from ''Series/ILoveLucy'' to Creator/{{Plato}}'s ''Allegory of the Cave' to Surrealist party games. The B-side "We're the Replacements" is an allusion to Music/TheReplacements, a fellow [[CollegeRadio college rock]] band.
* ShownTheirWork:
** The song "Am I Awake" displays some accurate themes in dreams that are common to everybody, and can be used to identify that you're dreaming. "And when I close my eyes it looks the same as when I open them again" is a real phenomenon that closing your eyes in dreams does nothing at all. "What time is it?" is because whenever you look at a series of numbers or letters in a dream, look away, and look again, the sequence changes, and is often gibberish.
** "Mammal" accurately describes the characteristics of [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin mammals]]. It is also very likely the only song to contain a reference to [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Allotheria allotherians]], a group of prehistoric mammals that are now extinct. They even refer to it as a "dead uncle." On the other hand, they do refer to the [[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Koala koala]] as the 'koala bear', but almost everyone outside Australia does that.
** Then there's their biographical songs about such figures as UsefulNotes/JamesKPolk and James Ensor.
* SillyLoveSongs: Very, very rare for them, but they do indeed have one straightforward love song: [[PlayingAgainstType "Another First Kiss."]] Though, for a straightforward love song, it's extremely melancholy and could be easily interpreted as being about the inevitable decline of happiness in relationships, and the resulting resignation.
* SmallReferencePools: This one works both ways. While not the most common band misattributed, quite a few songs on file-sharing services are mistakenly labeled as being by They Might Be Giants ("88 Lines About 44 Women," by The Nails, seems to be the most common, despite sounding utterly nothing like TMBG). On the flip side, some of their tracks are labeled as belonging to other bands, particularly remixes (you'll find some people distributing the Brownsville Remix of "Istanbul (Not Constantinople)" as a Music/WeirdAlYankovic song, although it was a B-side for the single for the original).
* SoloSideProject: John Flansburgh had the side project Mono Puff, John Linnell had "State Songs" and "House of Mayors", and bassist Danny Weinkauf released his own kids' album titled "No School Today".
* SpinOff: John Linnell's "State Songs" and "House of Mayors" projects and John Flansburgh's other band, Mono Puff.
* SpontaneousHumanCombustion:
** The song "The Statue Got Me High" makes reference to spontaneous human combustion supernaturally induced by a humanoid statue, along with some subtle ''Theatre/DonGiovanni'' references.
--> ''My coat contained a furnace where there used to be a guy''.
** To say nothing of "You're On Fire", [[ExactlyWhatItSaysOnTheTin which is entirely about this.]]
---> ''Oh damn, you must've got one of them''
---> ''Combustible heads, I read an article all about them''.
* StalkerWithACrush: The narrator in "I'm Your Boyfriend Now".
* StepUpToTheMicrophone: Danny Weinkauf, the band's bass player, wrote and sung "Where Do They Make Balloons?" and "I Am A Paleontologist", and drummer Marty Beller wrote and sung "Alphabet Lost and Found", "High Five", and "Speed and Velocity".
* SubliminalSeduction:
** Several of their songs parody the "backmasking" phenomenon, ranging from an actual backwards message ("They Might Be Giants would like to include a verse about the suffering people of the world, but they couldn't figure out where to put it into the song" in one version of "Which Describes How You're Feeling") to an earlier part of the song reversed ("Subliminal"), to... John Flansburgh just singing nonsense syllables intended to ''sound'' backwards ("Hideaway Folk Family").
** Taken to a bizarre conclusion with "On Earth My Nina", which sounds like nonsense until you play it backwards, whereupon it becomes "Thunderbird", another of their songs. Even more bizarre, "Nina" was released first.
** They even got to do the ''Series/TwinPeaks'' 'Listen to something played backwards, mimic the sound, and then play that backwards so it sound forwards' process on "Dinner Bell"
--> ''Show-der, bicep, ew-bow, ahhhm! Foreahm, thumb, wrist, knuckle, pahhhhm!'' (etc.)
* SubvertedRhymeEveryOccasion:
** "Kiss Me, Son of God" has one. Two if you have a dirty mind and forgot the title.
** "Put Your Hand Inside the Puppet Head", too: "The check's in the mail, and I'll see you in church."
** "I'll Sink Manhattan":
--->''I've got a message''
--->''So before I get ''through'' ''
--->''I'll find your answering machine ''
--->''And I'll sink it ''first'' ''
* SuspiciouslySpecificDenial: In "Critic Intro":
--> ''The performers are not grinning scarecrows sent to torture and manipulate you.''
* TechnicianVersusPerformer: The Johns describe themselves this way. Flansburgh compliments Linnell's ability to whip out catchy tunes, while Linnell compliments Flansburgh ability to create memorable and unusual details. They each point to the other as the reason for their success.
* TextlessAlbumCover: Lincoln, The Else, and their newest album (as of 2015), Glean, each have one.
* ThisIsASong: The song "S-E-X-X-Y" begins with the lines: "Dressed only in clothes / From her head to her toes / This is the way / The talking part goes."
* TimeTravel: The song "2082" is about this. It's also an inversion of NeverTheSelvesShallMeet and HelpYourSelfInTheFuture, as the character [[spoiler:finds and murders his elderly future self.]]
* TruckDriversGearChange:
** "Alienation's for the Rich".
** "Birdhouse in Your Soul" does this in the second bridge before reverting back to its original key for the following verse.
* TwentyThree:
** The band had a show in 1983 in which 23 was prevalent. The show was on January 23rd, John Linnell was 23 years old at the time, 23 people attended the show, they played 23 songs (although they had only planned to play 22), and Flansburgh and Linnell both earned $23.
** The 1985 demo has 23 tracks.
* TwoLinesNoWaiting: "Spoiler Alert" consists of two overlapping stories: Flansburgh the tired trucker and Linnell the author who texts while driving. The ending implies that their cars collide.
* TheUnpronounceable: The appropriately-titled "Unpronounceable" deals with the narrator's obsession with decrypting someone's unpronounceable name.
* UnreliableNarrator: The Johns have referenced this trope by name in interviews. ''Many'' of their songs' protagonists are implied to be some combination of deluded ("Destination Moon"), paranoid ("The Shadow Government"), or just generally clueless ("Purple Toupee").
* VillainSong: "Kiss Me Son of God", "I Palindrome I", and "No One Knows My Plan" are definites. Others... perhaps.
* VocalTagTeam: Linnell and Flansburgh each sing about the same amount in every conceivable way - about the same numbers of songs singing lead, singing backup, and a smattering of full-fledged duets. In general, the one who wrote a given song will handle lead vocals, with the occasional exception.
* TheWalrusWasPaul: "Particle Man" seems like a very cryptic song, and it isn't clear who the four "men" are supposed to represent, if anyone. John Flansburgh described it as "just a song about characters in the most obvious sense" and claims that the lyrics are not intended to invoke real people, though Linnell later said that Triangle Man was based on a friend's observation that Robert Mitchum looked like an evil triangle when he took his shirt off in ''Film/NightOfTheHunter''.
* WhamLine: The last two lines of "You'll Miss Me": "It must be raining, 'cause a man ain't supposed to cry, / But I look up, and I don't see a cloud."
* WhoWritesThisCrap: "Who came up with Person Man?"
* WhiteMaskOfDoom: The train engineer in the third verse of "Turn Around" reveals a "face which was a paper-white mask of evil".
* WhosOnFirst: When you tell people about They Might Be Giants, you'll often hear an ObligatoryJoke of "Well, are they?"
* WordSaladLyrics: Commonly. The most blatant example would be "On Earth My Nina", which has an odd genesis. While recording "Thunderbird" for the first time, John Linnell tried backmasking the lyrical part of the song, and thought he heard the lyric "On Earth My Nina". He then proceeded to fill in the rest of the song with random words that kinda-sorta sounded like the other lyrics of "Thunderbird" backwards. "Stuff is Way" takes it to the fullest extent, and "Thinking Machine" does the same, but lampshades it.
* WouldHitAGirl: "Madam, I Challenge You To A Duel". Quoth John Flansburgh: "The entire conceit of the song is that itís about an extremely formal person, like the kind of person that would challenge someone to a duel ó only that the twist is that they are challenging a lady to a duel, which breaks every code of behavior in the world of dueling." The lyrics imply the eponymous madam is a CombatPragmatist.