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The Echo

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Someone that can only repeat other people's words.

This work is a proposed Trope, Tropers can vote and offer feedback in the comments section below.
Proposed By:
EvilerThanThou on Mar 14th 2019 at 1:33:26 PM
Last Edited By:
EvilerThanThou on 17 hours ago
Name Space: Main
Page Type: trope

They are not devoid of a capacity to speak entirely. They just speak only when spoken too. When spoken too, they merely repeat what you told them. You tell them "jump", they do not ask "how high?" They just say "jump."

In some circumstances, they are not just limited to repeating any word that is spoken to them at that given time. They could repeat a sentence said to them hours after they hear it when they believe it to be the perfect response to something. They might even be able to pick and choose specific parts of a sentence, constructing their own consonance like auditory Stock Footage.

Whether or not they are fully sentient and are cursed without the capacity to speak for themselves or if they are automatons with no actual wills of their own, programmed to copy whatever they hear, depends on who this trope applies to. When Played for Laughs, then it will devolve into a series of consecutive Stop Copying Mes. Evil examples may be used as a Mouth of Sauron, repeating word-for-word the orders of their masters and relaying the exact words of the responders back to the Big Bad.

Compare Not in Front of the Parrot, Parrot Exposition, Repeat to Confirm and Repeat What You Just Said. See also The Unintelligible, Voice for the Voiceless and The Voiceless. Not to be confused with Power Echoes, when someone's voice has an echo effect.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

    Comic Strip 
  • Calvin and Hobbes: In the April 9, 1995 comic, a shapeshifting alien copies Calvin's appearance. Since it doesn't know English, it just copies the few phrases it heard Calvin say: "Grittings. Ma nam is Kahlfin. Heeryor lunboks. Hoffa gud tay askool." But by the end of the day, it's learned enough English to form new sentences.

    Live-Action Series 
  • In the Doctor Who Series 4 (the Tenth Doctor) episode "Midnight", the Doctor decide to take a sight-seeing tour alongside a bunch of other tourists. This being a Doctor Who episode, a mysterious alien entity takes possession of one of the tour-guides. The creature does not seem to have a comprehension of human speech and repeat all words that it hears around it with perfect accuracy. After stoking madness and paranoia amongst the passengers, it starts to affect the Doctor, the Doctor becoming the one that is repeating its words.
  • Kamen Rider Kamen Rider Fourze & OOO: Movie War Mega Max: Nadeshiko used to only be able to repeat the words being said to her by Gentaro and other people (when she's not being quiet altogether) because she's a SOLU (Seeds Of Life from the Universe), an alien liquid that is not naturally sentient and replication is just its reflex. Gentaro's love for Nadeshiko became a catalyst to have humanity ensue in her, becoming fully sentient and displaying a full range of human emotions and understanding, including non-echo responses.

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Trope Namer is a mountain nymph from Classical Mythology named Echo. Being one of Zeus's many, many consorts, Hera comes to find her with him and after she tries to protect him (on his orders), Hera curses her so that she can only speak words that have been spoken to her. Later on, she becomes infatuated with the vain and cruel Narcissus. The exact details of what happens after differ depending on interpretations (he ends up killing her and Aphrodite curses him to fall in-love with his reflection, he falls in love with his reflection and they both die of a broken heart, etc), but all versions end with both dying, Echo's voice living on after her death as the origin of the acoustical phenomena of the same name.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Dungeons & Dragons: The Kenku are crowlike Bird People and exceptional voice mimics. Depending on the writer, they have no voices of their own and can only communicate by repeating snippets of other people's speech.

    Video Games 
  • In Undertale, Echo Flowers are bioluminescent plants that repeat the last sounds they were exposed to, always speech. The protagonist can hear conversations by other people through the flowers.

    Web Comic 
  • In Ask White Pearl and Steven (almost!) anything, White Pearl is only able to speak words that Steven has spoken in her vicinity. She is later able to carefully edit her speech and construct sentences all her own. By the end of Season Two, Rose Quartz reveal that this is because White Pearl is acting as an extension of Steven's will.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Steven Universe episode "Mirror Gem", Lapis Lazuli, trapped within a mirror Pearl found at the Galaxy Warp, is unable to properly communicate. As Steven spends the day with it, she is able to communicate with Steven by repeating everything she sees, eventually being able to edit the "footage" to construct her own sentences.
  • Zigzagged with a Monster of the Week in Bunnicula when the titular character and his fellow pets accidentally released a bird that can steal sounds. Among other kinds of sounds, it can steal people's voices and repeat the last words they said in a Stupid Statement Dance Mix of all the sounds it acquired until that point.


Feedback: 17 replies

Mar 14th 2019 at 3:41:02 PM

Basically a "parrot", right?

Mar 14th 2019 at 4:32:36 PM

As someone who participated in the TRS effort to clean up The Voiceless and its sister tropes, I can honestly say that we don't need more derivatives of The Voiceless. I mean, look at how many there are.

While I think this is distinct from others, I think the description needs to be crystal clear and nearly perfect before launch in order to survive future clean-up efforts of The Voiceless and its related tropes.

Mar 14th 2019 at 7:04:42 PM

^ This can't even be a subtrope of The Voiceless if they do say something, so it's fine.

Compare Repeat What You Just Say and Not In Front Of The Parrot.

Mar 14th 2019 at 9:00:31 PM

Would "Echo Character" make a clearer title than "The Echo"?

Mar 14th 2019 at 10:36:27 PM

  • Calvin And Hobbes: In the April 9, 1995 comic, a shapeshifting alien copies Calvin's appearance. Since it doesn't know English, it just copies the few phrases it heard Calvin say: "Grittings. Ma nam is Kahlfin. Heeryor lunboks. Hoffa gud tay askool." But by the end of the day, it's learned enough English to form new sentences.

Mar 16th 2019 at 1:05:20 AM

Live-Action TV

  • Kamen Rider X Kamen Rider Fourze And OOO Movie War Mega Max: Nadeshiko used to only be able to repeat the words being said to her by Gentaro and other people (when she's not being quiet altogether) because she's a SOLU (Seeds Of Life from the Universe), an alien liquid that is not naturally sentient and replication is just its reflex. Gentaro's love for Nadeshiko became a catalyst to have humanity ensue in her, becoming fully sentient and displaying a full range of human emotions and understanding, including non-echo responses.

Mar 15th 2019 at 10:48:43 PM

  • Dungeons And Dragons: The Kenku are crowlike Bird People and exceptional voice mimics. Depending on the writer, they have no voices of their own and can only communicate by repeating snippets of other people's speech.

Mar 16th 2019 at 1:31:39 AM

Added a missing word to the Kamen Rider entry. Corrected the spelling of a word in the Doctor Who entry.

Western Animation

  • Zigzagged with a Monster Of The Week in Bunnicula when the titular character and his fellow pets accidentally released a bird that can steal sounds. Among other kinds of sounds, it can steal people's voices and repeat the last words they said in a Stupid Statement Dance Mix of all the sounds it acquired until that point.

Mar 16th 2019 at 1:53:35 PM

Some toys have this: you speak to the toy, they record your voice, then they say it back.

Mar 16th 2019 at 2:12:37 PM

In Undertale, Echo Flowers are bioluminescent plants that repeat the last sounds they were exposed to, always speech. The protagonist can hear conversations by other people through the flowers.

Mar 16th 2019 at 3:05:02 PM

It's reasonabke to say that this would be related to The Voiceless in the same vein as The Unintelligible is. (Also, The Voiceless can speak; so it is possible for something to be a sister trope and be able to say something.)

Mar 16th 2019 at 5:29:00 PM

^ When they are literally mute, that's The Speechless.

Not to be confused with Power Echoes, when someone's voice has an echo effect.

Mar 17th 2019 at 10:11:26 AM

^ Are you responding to my point or just making a comment? Seriously, this comment and the one before aren't helping this draft but making statements about things we already know. How is this concept going to avoid the problems of The Voiceless, The Speechless, The Unintelligible, Elective Mute, The Quiet One, Silent Snarker, Silent Partner, etc.? These are all "character who rarely or never communicates verbally" and The Echo would at the very least be a subtrope of The Unintelligible (under "very limited vocabulary").

Also, the description makes this concept itself more or less a problem.

They might even be able to pick and choose specific parts of a sentence, constructing their own consonance like auditory Stock Footage. Overtime the words can accumulate, the Echo gathering more and more words before they are able to properly simulate the ability to communicate.
So they can communicate normally or they can't? This shouldn't be included in the description, since it goes against the basic premise that this is a character who can only repeat what they hear. I mean, otherwise, you're just talking about people learning a new language, but in a weird way. That might be its own trope but that's clearly not what you're going for here.

Mar 19th 2019 at 11:31:03 AM

One of the plumbers from Central Services in the film Brazil is this trope, only repeating what Bob Hoskins' character says.

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