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  • Jabba Table Manners: Helga is occasionally shown to be a messy eater, as seen in "Heat", "Helga's Masquerade" and "Big Bob's Crisis", where she has ice cream ("Heat"), chocolate syrup ("Helga's Masquerade") and barbecue sauce ("Big Bob's Crisis) all over her face.
  • Jerkass: Big Bob, Jamie O, The Jolly-Olly Man, Nick Vermicelli, and Wolfgang are consistently shown as very unpleasant and rude people. A lot of the kids (Helga, Harold, Sid, Stinky, Curly, etc.) have their moments frequently as well. There are also several one-time characters that are like this (Doug, the Jolly-Olly Man's father, Frankie G, Ludwig, The Sewer King, Mr. Bailey, etc)
  • Jerkass Ball: Arnold has a few moments of being uncharacteristically cruel, such as in "New Teacher" (where he assists the students in bullying Mr. Simmons into quitting his teaching job) and especially in "Egg Story" (where he rips Helga a new asshole even though she was trying to be nice to him for a change, telling her that he doesn't like her and would rather work with anyone else but her, this one, in particular, seemed like an Out-of-Character Moment)
  • Jerk Jock:
    • Wolfgang, and most of the fifth-graders are bullies who happen to be athletically inclined.
    • Jamie-O is also athletically inclined and tends to pick on his brother Gerald.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Helga, Big Patty, Harold, Stoop Kid, Ernie Potts, Oskar, and (buried quite deep) Big Bob are all frequently rude, but sometimes show that they're not completely bad people.
  • The Jinx: Eugene is considered by everyone to be a magnet of misfortune. To him, however, Arnold is the jinx since almost everything bad that happens to him happens whenever Arnold is around.

  • Kaizo Trap: After Arnold's boat wins the race in "Tour De Pond" it crashes into the edge of the pond and sinks. Rex's boat which finishes the race in second explodes and sinks shortly after.
  • Kangaroo Court: In "False Alarm", the trial for deducing who pulled the fire alarm goes through an unorthodox and unfair process, which makes Arnold's vindication of Eugene that much more effective.
  • Kafka Komedy: Almost any moment with Eugene's misfortunes qualifies as Black Comedy that doesn't involve death (other than his pet fish dying in "Eugene's Pet").
  • Karaoke Bonding Scene: Principal Wartz leaves his job as school principal in frustration after teacher Mr. Simmons criticizes him for his strictness on the students. With Mr. Wartz's newfound independence, he goes to a karaoke session and sings "I Will Prevail", about the singer prevailing despite being apart from another. Mr. Simmons temporarily fills in as principal until he reconciles with Mr. Wartz, admitting that he wasn't suited for school principal. Mr. Wartz, after reclaiming his role as school president and bringing the school back in order, sings "I Will Prevail" at karaoke once again, but this time as a triumphant duet with Mr. Simmons.
  • Karma Houdini:
    • Most of the bullies who pick on the kids never get punished by adults. A lot of people do some very rude/mean things and get away with it. Especially the older kids like Wolfgang. Only once do we see a couple of them get told off or called out on their actions...and they were one-shot characters with no names.
    • Tragically deconstructed in "Helga and the Nanny". When Miriam gets a new job, Helga’s parents hire a nanny named Inga to look after Helga. However, while Inga actually cares for Helga, Helga feels as though Inga is trying to control her life, especially when Inga calls her out on her bad behavior, telling her that sewing is a sane way to canalize anger. Finally, Helga loses her patience completely and frames Inga for theft...only to be surprised when the other kids call her out. Inga is fired and has to return to her country. When Helga finds her, her guilt gets the better of her, and she confesses to the framing, only for Inga to tell her she knew it all the time. Helga is confused as to why she is getting off scot-free until Inga explains that she is not: at the end of the day, Helga is nothing but an angry and sad kid, who pushes away those who care about her, and because of that she cannot be happy. The show ends with Helga in her unhappy home, sadly sewing something, realizing that her actions have cost her a happy home and someone who cares about her.
    • Eugene was facing a possible expulsion for pulling a fire alarm, but when it was revealed that Curly framed him, Curly never faced such a punishment, even after pulling the alarm again right in front of Principal Wartz. Or if anything, he was never sent to seek the psychiatric help that he so obviously needed. In "Eugene Goes Bad", Eugene pulls the fire alarm himself and doesn't get expelled either.
    • Gerald's little sister Timberly has twice avoided the consequences of her actions. The first time by staging a theft of her favourite toy causing Gerald and Arnold to go around town questioning potential suspects in "Ransom", and again after eating 40 boxes of chocolate turtles Gerald and Arnold planned to sell in "Chocolate Turtles". Both times she avoids consequences simply by crying.
  • Kids Are Cruel:
    • If a kid is not the focus of the episode, chances are they will be part of a crowd, laughing at the current protagonist's misfortune. "Phoebe's Little Problem" is probably the cruelest example, where nearly everyone at school won't stop laughing at Phoebe for breaking wind into a microphone.
    • Invoked in "New Teacher", when everyone (even generally nice kids like Pheobe and Arnold) plots to break Mr. Simmons' spirit by deliberately being disrespectful and mean to him.
  • Killer Outfit: "Headless Cabbie" was about the eponymous legend of a horse drawn carriage driver being loaned a scarf from a woman passenger looking for her missing dog. Later, hearing a dog's barking, she begins urging him to drive faster and faster through a dark and foggy forested path until his scarf inevitably snags on a tree branch, getting his whole head snatched off.
  • Know Your Vines: "Roughin' It" ended with Big Bob Pataki rushing through a small bush to get back to his campsite after a disastrous hike, cutting off Arnold telling them to go around it. This bush was poison ivy, causing him more misery.

  • Lampshade Hanging: Later episodes (and Gerald specifically) liked to point out Arnold's need to go out of his way to help people. Becomes a plot point in "Deconstructing Arnold", when Arnold decides to quit giving advice.
  • Large Ham: There are quite a few characters who chew the scenery and have very loud and expressive dialogue.
    • Helga, of the theatrically melodramatic variety, and Curly, of the violently disturbed variety.
    • Gerald, whenever he's reciting one of his beloved Urban Legends.
    • The Jolly Olly Man also can also outclass Curly as a dangerous lunatic.
    • Rhonda sometimes gets this in episodes that focus on her, such as "Rhonda Goes Broke".
    • Harold, anytime "Vesti la giuba" acts as his leitmotif.
  • Laser-Guided Karma:
    • In "Phoebe's Little Problem", Harold is the only one who still makes fun of Phoebe after she vindicates herself at the end of the episode (as well as probably being the one who made fun of her the most throughout the episode). He then wets his pants at the end of the episode, becoming the new Butt-Monkey.
    • Big Bob always gets his comeuppance for his actions. In particular, Helga ends up plotting against him whenever she realizes that his schemes will wrong Arnold in some way.
  • Last Day to Live:
    • Helga gets kissed by a monkey and believes that she has contracted monkeynucleosis in "Monkey Business". She believes she's going to die and soon finds herself on her death bed, her health failing. She decides to tell everyone exactly what she really thinks of them and give them her stuff. Eventually, she brings Arnold into her room to tell him her true feelings, but before she can, Phoebe barges in and reveals that monkeynucleosis doesn't really exist and that Helga won't die after all. And thus, Helga's secret lives on.
    • In the pilot (later remade into the episode "24 Hours To Live"), when Arnold thought he was going to be beaten to a pulp by Harold the next day, Helga followed him around and shouted "_hours, _minutes, and _seconds until you DIE!" to illustrate the point.
    • Also in the episode "Grandpa's Birthday", where Grandpa believes he will die the moment he turns 81, according to family history. He turns out to still have some time left after Arnold does the math and points out that Grandpa's ancestors actually died when they were 91.
  • Last Minute Hookup: Inevitably, between Arnold and Helga at the end of The Jungle Movie. They have one brief exchange, in the very last scene of the movie, after their official Relationship Upgrade.
  • Left Hanging: Will Arnold ever find his parents? Do him and Helga get a happy ending together? For over a decade, it looked like we were never going to find out. Thankfully subverted with The Jungle Movie resolving everything.
  • Left the Background Music On: In "Olga Comes Home", before Helga admits to changing the grade on Olga's report card, she turns off the radio playing Mozart's Requiem which had played every time Olga was seen moping over her B+.
  • Leitmotif:
    • Violins tend to start playing whenever Helga's "soft side" is shown. Also, there's a "Helga loves Arnold" theme that plays sometimes when she's goes on one of her love rants or has a special moment with him. This theme is usually played on violin, but there are some interesting variations. For instance, it's a bass riff in the Disney Acid Sequence of "Helga's Love Potion", and it gets a full orchestral upgrade in the movie when she kisses Arnold.
      • In the original pilot, Helga's love theme was more romantic than sappy and played on a saxophone.
    • Phoebe has one that is apparently, interestingly enough, a faster and slightly modified version of Helga's theme.
    • Lila has one that plays whenever she goes on one of her "ever so" familiar expositions about how much she adores something. It's actually rearranged and set to lyrics in "Eugene, Eugene!", as the song Lila auditions with.
    • Oskar Kokoshka has a theme as well, and is apparently the only one of the boarders with a theme of their own. It plays particularly when he's being especially sneaky.
      • Ernie also his own theme. It doesn't get much play in the series, but it can be first heard when Ernie is introduced at the beginning of "The Old Building", and when Arnold and Gerald are going into Ernie’s room in "Gerald Comes Over". It’s especially prominently featured in "Ernie in Love" where a much more sweeter-sounding rendition of it can be heard.
    • Grandpa Phil has a theme as well, that features heavily whenever he has a flashback to his youth.
    • Harold has the Ridi Pagliaccio aria, which frequently plays whenever a scene has him make a tearful confession or apologize for a wrong he's made: Look at me Arnold, look at me. I am a.... I am a... Big, Ugly Clowno, a Big Fat Ugly Clowno!
    • Stinky has a very country-sounding theme that can usually be heard in his own episodes.
    • Rhonda has her own fancy-sounding theme that is usually featured in episodes that spotlight her.
    • Coach Wittenberg is often accompanied by a rather out-of-tune sounding tuba march.
  • Lessons in Sophistication: The episode "Polishing Rhonda" had Rhonda and Big Patty signed up for a finishing school by their parents when the two of them got into a scuffle in school. Rhonda hadn't done very well due to her Spoiled Brat tendencies, while Patty excelled. Eventually Rhonda asked Patty for help and eventually the two of them passed.
  • Let Us Never Speak of This Again:
    • In "The Flood", when Helga attempts to leave the school, only to find the doors locked, Principal Wartz comes out of his office, dancing flamenco, leading into this exchange:
    Principal Wartz: Are you attempting to leave the school grounds without permission, Miss Pataki?
    Helga: Are you attempting to dance the flamenco, Principal Wartz?
    Principal Wartz: This moment didn't happen.
    Helga: Gotcha.
    • The above could possibly be a parody of the fact that Helga sometimes has exchanges like this with Phoebe. Helga will wrap up a conversation, then proclaim "Oh, and Phoebe? This conversation never happened," usually prompting Phoebe to respond with a cheerful "Forgetting!"
  • Lethal Chef: Arnold's grandma is implied to be lousy at cooking at least twice. According to Grandpa in "Eating Contest", one of her recipes even included socks.
  • Lighter and Softer: The show at the beginning of its production focused a lot on real life issues and how to deal with them (like getting mugged, loners who are Driven to Suicide and the like), but the writers felt that the show was heading in a too depressing direction for a kids' show. Therefore, they lightened up the mood by having the characters behave happier, as well as being funnier rather than being uncomfortable to watch, which altered into the wacky humor of the show we know today.
  • Likes Older Women:
    • Arnold, who's in fourth grade has had crushes on Ruth (a brunette girl with braces) and Maria who are sixth graders, and his teacher Ms. Felter, there was also Inga and quite possibly Olga Pataki.
    • Gerald had a crush on an attractive 13 year old neighbor of his, Connie, Bridgette, and there was that secretary whom he flirted with who works at Mr. Smith's building.
  • Limited Wardrobe:
    • Roughly 90% of the time, the kids are in the same clothes. There are quite a few episodes that subvert this, however, by giving them different clothes.
    • Justified in Helga's case of always wearing a pink bow, since Arnold complimented her bow when they first met.
  • Loads and Loads of Characters: There is a sizeable number of characters on this show, including all of Arnold's classmates, their families, and the people living in the boarding house.
  • Logical Fallacies: Lieutenant Major Goose gives us this gem: "YOUR HAIR'S NOT CURLY! WHAT IS YOUR REAL NAME?" Granted, he was right about it not being Curly's real name (his real name's Thaddeus), but that doesn't make it any less ridiculous. Just a lot funnier.
  • Loophole Abuse: In "Mud Bowl", the fourth graders attempt to gain an advantage in their football game against the fifth graders by having Torvald (who is in fact a fourth grader, but has been held back three times) play for them. It works until he trips in a pothole and hurts his ankle, making him unable to play.
  • Long-Lost Relative: Mai Hyunh, Mr. Hyunh's daughter. They were separated during the chaos of the Vietnam War. The Christmas Episode centered around Arnold finding his daughter and reuniting them for Christmas.
  • Lots of Luggage: This one's a stretch, but "Roughin' It" had Big Bob Pataki take his daughter Helga and her friend Phoebe out camping with a lot of high-tech camping equipment because he was testing out the merchandise for his company. It turns out to be all junk that he later throws away angrily while Arnold and Gerald use the skills they learned from Arnold's Grandpa earlier to get back to their campsite.
  • Love Dodecahedron:
    • "Weird Cousin" and "Arnold visits Arnie" make one of these where All Love Is Unrequited. With both towns combined, we have a chain: Arnold->Lila->Arnie->Lulu->Arnold->Hilda->Arnie->Helga->Arnold. Graphically, this would resemble a figure-eight. However, one must also consider that "Arnold Vists Arnie" is All Just a Dream, so it is unlikely that Lulu and Hilda actually exist, and they are more likely Arnold's subconscious representations of Lila and Helga.
    • The actual shape of love between the non-dream characters is complicated. At its most convoluted, it's around this: Brainy has a crush on Helga, who has a crush on Arnold, who has a crush on Lila, who has a crush on Arnie, who's got a crush on Helga instead.
  • Love Doodles: Helga is often seen drawing love doodles about Arnold whom she crushes on.
  • Love Makes You Crazy:
    • Helga, Brainy, Arnold, the whole series centers on unrequited love that indeed makes the characters crazy.
      • Amusingly, love is also the only thing that consistently makes Arnold act in ways his conscience would normally disagree with, especially later on in the show when he's almost exclusively squeaky clean.
  • Love Triangle: More like Love Square. Arnold likes Lila, who likes his cousin Arnie, who likes Helga, who likes Arnold. In "Arnold Visits Arnie", the love chain is reversed; Arnold likes Hilda (Helga) who likes Arnie, who likes Lulu (Lila) who likes Arnold. This show just screams All Love Is Unrequited.
  • Loves My Alter Ego: Arnold, Helga, and "Cecile" make this a very odd incarnation of the trope, since Cecile was a pen pal of Arnold's that Helga tried to impersonate to get closer to him in "Arnold's Valentine".
  • Loving a Shadow: In "Helga's Masquerade", Helga tries to be more like Lila so Arnold would like her more. He does, but only because of thinking of her as Lila.

  • Mad Libs Catch Phrase: Phoebe's "[verb]-ing!" in response to Helga asking her to do things. Most often it's "Forgetting!" whenever she and Helga have a conversation that "never happened." Helga borrows it in "Phoebe Breaks a Leg" as part of the Hourglass Plot.
  • Magic Feather: In "The Aptitude Test", after a mix up results in Harold believing he scored high on a career aptitude test, he starts performing better in school and takes an interest in areas such as finance and horticulture. When the mix up is revealed, he is distraught and thinks he's a dumb failure. However, Mr. Simmons points out that the only reason Harold did poorly on the test was because he was lazy and answered "E" for every question and that the way he performed in class that week shows he does have the potential to do great if he tries.
  • Magic Realism: While Arnold's world is mostly realistic, things such as Pigeon Man's take off and Eugene's excessively bad luck fall under supernatural and unusual things somehow existing in this setting.
  • Match Cut: Accompanies Helga's Gilligan Cut examples in "Das Subway" and "Dinner For Four," with her drawn in the same composition and expression, but with the background changed.
    • An audible variant happens near the end of "The Aptitude Test." When Helga screams in horror among seeing Miriam burning her poetry, it fades to Harold's house where Harold is also screaming in horror, but because he found out he actually flunked the titular test.
  • Maybe Magic, Maybe Mundane: In many episodes, the characters will investigate an urban legend. Almost every time something related to the tale comes up, a logical explanation for it is provided seconds later. Toward the end of the episode, they decide it was all just a story and don't believe it, only to have the episode conclude with a heavy implication or just blatant proof that the legend was true.
  • Mean Character, Nice Actor: In universe - Arnold of all people is chosen to play the "black-hearted villain" for the titular school play in "Eugene, Eugene". But so nice is Arnold that he can't go through with the director's ultra-cynical rewrite of the ending in which his character wins and the hero dies crushed because it's just too cruel, so he helps scheme to change the ending back into its original Happy Ending.
  • Meaningful Name: Eugene's name is ironic in that it means 'born lucky' and he's the show's Butt-Monkey.
  • Meganekko: Phoebe is a cute girl with glasses.
  • Merchandise-Driven: In universe, Timberly's favorite show, Wally the Alligator is this to the point where his products are advertised in his theme song.
    Wally loves you,
    All you little girls and boys!
    Wally loves you,
    And he loves you when you buy his toys!
    He loves to see your happy faces,
    So buy his sheets and pillow cases!
    Buy his ribbons for your hair,
    And buy his fuzzy underwear!
    Buy a Wally salad spinner,
    Eat the Wally TV Dinner!
    Tell your dad to tell your mom,
    To buy you a Wally CD-ROM!
    Wally loves you,
    All you little girls and boys!
    Wally loves you,
    And he loves you when you buy his toys!
  • Mighty Whitey: Arnold's adventuring parents are Caucasians who are praised by the natives of San Lorenzo.
  • Miracle Rally: Arnold and friends end up winning their ball game against the fifth graders in "Mudbowl" when Arnold takes Helga's place as quarterback.
  • Mirror Universe: "Arnold Visits Arnie" shows that everyone in Arnie's home is an opposite version of their counterpart in Hillwood, like Phoebe's counterpart being a nitwit instead of a genius and Harold's counterpart being thin instead of obese.
  • Mistaken for Thief: In "Bag of Money", Arnold, Sid, and Gerald find a paper bag of money and consider sharing it among themselves. Arnold accidentally swaps the bag for one full of birdseed belonging to an old woman on the bus and his friends think he stole the money to keep for himself.
  • Mood Whiplash:
    • The infamous pairing of "Arnold Betrays Iggy" and "Helga and the Nanny," two episodes which are unusually cynical considering how optimistic the rest of the series is. With the former, just for letting Iggy's humiliating secret out, he first gives Arnold the passive-aggressive treatment for months on end, then forces him to endure a Humiliation Conga himself on live TV. The usually-forgiving Arnold treats this as beyond the pale and severs ties with Iggy. With the latter, Helga ends up framing her nanny for theft, ruining her career prospects and leading her to declare Helga beyond help.
    • Two of Gerald's Urban Legends both feature this; "Wheezin' Ed" and "Pigeon Man". In the former, after using a deep, sinister voice to talk about the titular gangster, he abruptly switches to cheerfully noting that some say Ed was just faking the wheezing for a gimmick. Which then switches back to creepy visuals, ending with a shot of a man's shadow as he points and screams in horror, three candles mounted on human skulls on sticks the only light source. In the latter, after ominously suggesting that Pigeon Man is an alien (something accompanied by spine-tingling music), he then abruptly switches to a chirpy voice and notes the alternative theory is that the Pigeon Man is just a crazy guy in a chicken suit.
  • Mooning: Harold, Sid, and Stinky prank Principal Wartz by baring their behinds in front of him in "Full Moon", which leaves Arnold to do a month worth of detention for refusing to reveal the troublemakers to the principal.
  • Mr. Imagination: Arnold, during the first season, often had an active imagination.
  • Musical Episode: "What's Opera, Arnold?" and "Eugene, Eugene!" both feature musical numbers. The latter was even about the characters performing in a musical in-universe.
  • Mythology Gag: In the episode "Monkey Business" Helga gives away her sousaphone when she thinks she's gonna die from monkeynucleosis. In the original Arnold claymation shorts, she played a sousaphone in Arnold's band.

  • Naked People Are Funny: Arnold's grandma surfs with a group of nudists in "Summer Love".
    Grandma: (walking by with a surfboard obscuring her) Up the establishment!
    Grandpa: Aw, Pookie, nobody wants to see that!
    Grandma: (laughing)
  • Nature Tinkling:
    • When listing the great things about camping in "Roughin' It", one of the experiences Grandpa Phil lists is "making doody behind a tree".
    • Harold and Sid are shown peeing outside in "Fishing Trip".
  • Named After Somebody Famous:
    • Oskar Kokoschka should consider being an artist.
    • "New Bully On The Block" Introduces Wolfgang's rival: Ludwig. There's a bit of Fridge Brilliance when it's shown that they're forced to engage in art activities such as dance and oboe.
  • The Napoleon:
    • Ernie, the construction worker that lives at the Sunset Arms. He's so short that he can fit into a briefcase (as demonstrated in the "Fighting Families" episode). Played with in "Ernie In Love," in which he falls for the tall and Lovely fashion model, Lola. He also takes a bit too much pride in his work - demolishing skyscrapers and other tall buildings.
    • Helga also calls Arnold this in "Phoebe Takes the Fall".
  • Near-Death Experience: Big Bob has one in "Big Bob's Crisis", which makes him decide to turn his life around.
  • Nerds Are Sexy: Gerald thinks Phoebe is attractive.
  • Never Learned to Read: Oskar is revealed to be illiterate in "Oskar Can't Read?", until Arnold helped him.
  • Never Mess with Granny: Sure, Arnold's grandma may be a little nuts, but if provoked, she will kick your ass.
  • Never Say "Die": Mostly averted, as several episodes featured death as a plot device (ie: Dino faked his death in attempt to sell more records, Grandpa spent an episode thinking he was about to die, Sid thought he murdered Principal Wartz, and a few other examples). However, when they make allusions to the afterlife, they sometimes mention heaven by name, but always use a euphemism in place of the word "hell," leading to quotes like this:
    Grandpa: (after thinking he died) Well, that's it, I must be in heaven. Oh no! Oskar's here! This must be the other place!
    • However, he does say "die" after finding out he's not going to kick the bucket for another 10 years.
    • In "Freeze Frame", Arnold thinks that two men are plotting to murder someone named Marty (revealed to be Mr. Green), which starts when he hears them say that they're going to "get Marty" (they were actually just planning a surprise party for him). When Arnold discovers more evidence of their plans, he lists several euphemisms for killing ("They're going to 86 him"), and the words "die", "kill", and "murder" are never used in the episode.
    • Lampshaded in the episode "Old Iron Man" where, while under the impression that they're going to die in the water, Phil and his friend Jimmy Kafka exchange various expressions for death, such as "going to Davy Jones' locker" and "waking up to the deep sleep". Phil comes up with "The Last Tango in Paris" which Kafka criticizes for "not being a euphemism for dying".
    • The episode "Monkey Business" has Helga believing she has monkeynucleosis and sees the last symptom to be "Expiration". When Phoebe finally tells her that the disease is completely fake, Helga cheers that she's not going to "expire".
    • Subversion: Helga outright says "We're all gonna die! We're all gonna die!" in "Haunted Train" when she realizes they're on the actual haunted train Arnold's grandpa was talking about.
    • Another subversion when the boarders watch a baseball game on television that Arnold and Gerald are seeing in person. Arnold's grandma shouts, "Kill the umpire!"
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!:
    • Arnold does this to Lila's heart when he reveals that he doesn't like "like" her, and regrets it afterwards because he realizes that he does genuinely like her after the fact.
    • The whole Arnold and Lila thing would have never happened in the first place if Helga didn't write "Arnold loves Lila" on a wall in an alley. (She originally wrote her own name in place of Lila's but quickly changed it as a group of girls were approaching.) Lila seeing the message resulted in her being interested in Arnold and later Arnold being interested in Lila, much to Helga's frustration.
    • Towards the end of "New Bully on the Block", Wolfgang's team is down by three with little time left so he tells Arnold to kick a field goal. Out of his earshot, Helga tries to convince Arnold to purposely miss so Ludwig gets the vacant lot and the fourth graders can work out a deal with him and his goons. However, Arnold notices that the bullies are starting to get along and thinks that with them being friends, they'll be willing to share the lot now. Arnold makes the kick and the bullies congratulate each other on a good game and agree to hang out at the lot together. Unfortunately, they also decide they'll use their combined strength to keep the fourth graders out and beat them up when they complain about it.
  • The Nicknamer: Helga, who has a name for everybody: "Football Head", "Hair Boy", and "Arnoldo" (among many others) for Arnold; "Tall Hair Boy" and "Geraldo" for Gerald; "Pink Boy" for Harold; "Princess" and "Rhondaloid" for Rhonda; "Stinko" for Stinky; "Little Miss Perfect" for Lila. Even her best friend Phoebe isn't immune: Helga usually calls her "Pheebs", but at least that one's pretty common.
  • No Accounting for Taste:
    • For some unexplained reason, Lila like likes Arnold's weird cousin Arnie.
    • This also applies to Suzie's marriage to the lazy and irresponsible Oskar.
    • Why Miriam fell for a jerk like Big Bob is also a mystery.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed:
    • Ronnie Matthews seems to be a one-man version of Milli Vanilli. Handsome dark-skinned guy? Check. Strong European accent that disappears when he "sings?" Check. Complete inability to write music, play music and sing? Check, check and check.
    • Dino Spumoni is a poor man's Frank Sinatra.
    • Douglas Cain, the reporter in "Arnold's Halloween", is based on Orson Welles, and voiced by Maurice LaMarche, who is well-known for his vocal impressions of Orson Welles.
  • No Communities Were Harmed: Hillwood City is an combination of many different northwestern cities, with some New York thrown in there.
  • Noir Episode: "Grandpa's Packard" is a spoof of the noir genre, with Grandma Gertie as the detective.
  • No Name Given: The main character himself. ", the last name's kind of smudged..."
    • His last name is Shortman, as seen in The Jungle Movie.
  • Non-Nude Bathing: Phoebe bathes distraughtly while in her full outfit in "Phoebe Cheats".
  • Non Sequitur: Arnold's Grandma will often declare bizarre things in conversation that have little to nothing to do with what everyone else is talking about.
    Pookie: Well, I'm off to raise the Titanic!
  • Non Sequitur, *Thud*: Quite a few occurrences, usually involving someone get hit in the head with a baseball.
    • In the pilot, after Arnold beans Harold, Helga says to him, "Say something, Pink Boy!", to which Harold absentmindedly replies, "Goodnight, mommy."
    • In "Dangerous Lumber", in different points of the episode, when Arnold beans Harold and then Mickey Kaline, when they are asked to say something, they end up saying, "Easy squeezy lemon peasy."
    • In "Grudge Match", when Helga gets hit with a golf ball, she comes very very close to confessing her love to Arnold.
  • Noodle Implements: "Phoebe Skips" ends with Helga and Phoebe scheming to get back at the sixth grade girls who humiliated Phoebe during the episode. We never find out what the two of them ended up doing with all this stuff, but it was probably nasty.
    Helga: "Alright Pheebs, looks like I'm gonna be needing a few things. A box of thumbtacks, a ball of string and a watermelon..."
    Helga: "Good idea, Phoebe! Write that one down..."
  • No Swastikas: In Grandpa's war story, all of the Germans wear arm bands with frowny faces. The major's hat even has an eagle gripping a frowny face.
  • Not in Front of the Parrot: In "Helga's Parrot," the parrot nearly divulges Helga's secret because it's remembered one of Helga's poems. Luckily, the parrot is devoured by a monitor lizard before it can say anything.
  • Not Me This Time: Rex Smythe-Higgins I is an understandable suspect for stealing Grandpa Phil's car in "Grandpa's Packard", considering that they're longtime rivals and that Rex's own Packard had recently lost to Phil's in a contest, but when Grandma Gertie and Arnold confront him on the matter, he claims to be innocent and gives the alibi that he was in London when Grandpa's car was stolen.
  • Not My Lucky Day:
    • Not Eugene's lucky life. He always has tough luck.
    • "The List", where Arnold has a huge organized list with plans for an awesome day, but everything goes wrong. The song his Grandma sings cheers him up though.
  • Nothing Is the Same Anymore: Arnold and Helga's dynamic after the confession. They agreed it was "heat of the moment", but it's not hard to tell Arnold didn't buy that. The tango scene in "April Fool's Day", one of the two episodes set post-movie, has Arnold abandon his passive behavior for a more forward, flirtatious one. (Craig Bartlett confirmed in an interview that Arnold was indeed flirting with Helga.) This is touched upon in The Jungle Movie, as Arnold stated he wasn't ready to digest Helga's confession.

  • Obfuscating Disability:
    • "Phoebe Breaks a Leg" had Phoebe taking advantage of Helga's niceness when she thought she broke a leg, via using a fake cast.
    • Helga fakes blindness in "April Fools Day" to get revenge on Arnold for his prank on her.
    • Helga fakes amnesia in "Beaned" to get a guilty Arnold to take care of her.
  • Oblivious to Love:
    • Arnold, big time. This is actually subverted in a couple of later episodes where it is implied that his subconscious knows that Helga is in love with him and is trying to get him to figure it out. Justified because he might be a little reluctant and uncomfortable being involved with someone who has given so much grief over the years...and does it right after being nice to him. He at least, however, generally shows that he knows she is a much nicer person than she lets on.
    • Helga, meanwhile, seems oblivious to Brainy's crush on her - even after he tries to give her a ring.
  • Oddball Doppelgänger: Arnold's cousin Arnie looks similar to him, but is definitely far weirder in behavior. Later in the series, "Arnold Visits Arnie" shows there is a whole group of odd counterparts to every other character in the series. Well, maybe.
  • Odd Friendship: Rhonda and Nadine. Rhonda is a stuck-up primadonna and is into fashion, which Nadine isn't. Nadine is much more down to earth and is fascinated with bugs and arachnids, which gross Rhonda out. But despite this, they've been best friends since they were four years old.
    • Sid and Lorenzo. Sid is poor, crazy, dumb, and has an ambiguous moral compass while Lorenzo is rich, quiet, smart, and very polite. "Arnold's Room" showed that Sid is desperate for Lorenzo's approval and worried his social status would make Lorenzo dislike him. Lorenzo later tells Sid he genuinely likes him as a friend and doesn't care that he doesn't have a cool room like his or Arnold's.
  • Offhand Backhand: Helga frequently punches Brainy in the face without turning around to face him.
  • Off-Model: A big problem in the first season, when the character designs were less consistent.
  • Offscreen Teleportation: Being offscreen most of the time, it's pretty easy for Brainy to do suddenly appear out of nowhere. Lampshaded in several episodes where he shows up behind Helga in the most improbable places, such as on Elk Island, the supposedly haunted train, inside a tree, and in an alley that Helga made sure was empty, which got Lampshaded:
    Helga: Look, Brainy, this is just weird. How is it that you're standing behind me again? How did you get in this little arch? Were you waiting for me to come to this alley? What's your deal?
  • Ominous Pipe Organ: In the episode "Helga vs. Big Patty", after she told Arnold that Big Patty will still beat her up, even though she apologized for her behavior before, Helga walks away from him having lost hope while a short, but powerful pipe organ tune plays ominously.
    Stinky: Bad girl walkin'.
  • Once Done, Never Forgotten:
    • One episode had Rhonda throw a party in which some characters were not invited for being Geeks. They bring up the literal definition of the word, which repeatedly prompts this exchange: "...And none of us bite the heads off chickens! Except Curly." "Yeah! And that was only the one time!"
    • Another example (and deconstruction) occurs in "Phoebe's Little Problem". Phoebe, while accepting an award on stage at a school assembly, accidentally farts into a microphone. The rest of the students won't let her live it down, eventually causing her to become a shut-in. Some of the other students (and Mr. Simmons, the teacher) feel bad for her and try to cheer her up, but their attempts end up making her feel worse. Finally, at another assembly, Phoebe gets on stage and goes on a tirade about how, in spite of everything else she's done, all the other students are reducing her to just being "the girl who farted", as if that was the extent of her accomplishments. When Harold still proceeds to mock her for it, he ends up wetting his pants and runs away while everyone laughs at him and Rhonda says "He's never gonna hear the end of it."
  • Onee-sama: In a rare Western example of this trope, Lila quickly develops the dynamic of a girl looking up to an older woman with Olga due to their similarities. To the point where Helga, who usually can't stand Olga, actually becomes jealous, proving Aw, Look! They Really Do Love Each Other.
  • One Head Taller: Gender-flipped with Helga and Arnold. Minus Arnold's spiky hair, Helga is taller.
  • One Mario Limit: Helga Pataki is easily the most well-known character bearing that name. Arnold unfortunately is overshadowed by Arnold Schwarzenegger.
  • One of the Boys:
    • Helga, being the tomboy, prefers to spend more time with boys than girls. Harold even commented on this trope by telling Helga that the game they were playing is for boys only in the episode "Helga's Makeover".
    • Rhonda is also mostly seen hanging out with the boys. Despite her wealthy upbringing and snobby, self-righteous attitude, she has been known to play contact football and a variety of other sports along with the other children even to the point of destroying her beloved outfits in the process as seen in "Mudbowl" and "New Bully on the Block".
  • One Side of the Story: "Arnold and Lila" has Lila find graffiti saying Arnold loves her and refusing to let Arnold explain that he didn't do it, both of them unaware that Helga wrote the graffiti and changed it to keep her crush on Arnold a secret.
  • One Steve Limit:
    • It's explicitly mentioned once that there is only one "Arnold" in the school. Averted, however, by his cousin Arnie. It's subsequently revealed that Arnold is named after his maternal grandfather; since Arnold gets the football head from his mother's side of the family, and since Arnie himself also has a football head, it's a safe bet that Arnie is also named for their shared grandfather.
    • Averted again in "Crush on Teacher", making this trope the source of conflict in the episode. The class's substitute teacher Ms. Felter takes a liking to Arnold, saying she likes his name. Gerald later overhears Felter talking about how she's having "dinner with Arnold". Arnold and Gerald think she's talking about him and Arnold ends up visiting her house, later to find out her fiancé is also named Arnold.
    • "Abner, Come Home" also features Arnold going around the neighborhood, calling for his pet pig Abner, only for a confused man to stick his head out of his window and repeatedly call "What?!"
    • "Helga" and "Olga" are actually just different translations of the same name: German and Russian, respectively.
    • There are actually three Roberts on the show: Big Bob Pataki, Mr. Robert Simmons, and Robert, a background extra student at P.S. 118.
    • There's Gerald's father Martin Johanssen and Mr. Green's first name is Marty.
    • There was Olga's temporary fiancé Doug Lesham and Orson Welles expy Douglas Cain from the Halloween episode.
  • Only Known by Their Nickname:
    • Patty is called "Big Patty" until Harold stands up for her and tells Sid and Stinky to stop making fun of her and call her Patty.
    • Curly is never referred to by his birth name, and perhaps the only time it's mentioned is when it's lampshaded by the kids' new teacher in the episode... "New Teacher":
      Mr. Goose: You! What's your name?!
      Curly: "Curly."
      Mr. Goose: Your hair's not curly, boy! What's your real name?!
      Curly: ... "Thaddeus."
      Mr. Goose: [beat] Curly, go stand in that corner!
  • OOC Is Serious Business:
    • When Grandma starts acting serious you know something is wrong.
    • In "Oskar Gets A Job", Arnold gets so frustrated with Oskar (who has been duping Arnold into doing his job delivering newspapers for him) that he outright calls Oskar a loser. This ultimately leads to Oskar deciding to take his job more seriously.
  • Operation: Jealousy:
    • Helga somehow convinces Arnold to pretend to be with her to make Lila jealous in "Weird Cousin".
    • Also done when Helga "dates" Stinky in an attempt to make Arnold jealous in "Helga's Boyfriend".
  • Outdated Name: The kids tend to have rather old-fashioned names like Arnold, Helga, Gerald, Harold, Eugene, Rhonda, Nadine, Sid, Olga etc.
  • Out of Focus:
    • In later seasons, any of Mr. Simmons's fourth grade class who wasn't Arnold, Helga, Gerald, Pheobe, Rhonda, Harold, Stinky, Sid, Eugene, and Lila had less focus and were reduced to being background characters.
    • Arnold himself had very few episodes dedicated to him in seasons 4 and 5, and when he did appear it was usually to act as The Conscience.


  • Panty Shot: Helga in "Downtown As Fruits". Her white undies are seen under her dress/milk carton costume when she goes on stage to talk to the audience, from behind when she gets her head stuck and is being pulled by Phoebe, and from the front again as she struggles to get her head free from the hole in the carton.
    • Phoebe in "Hall Monitor". Her white undies are shown after she gets knocked down.
    • Timberly has these in a few, certain episodes.
  • Parental Bonus: "Oskar Kokoshka" was also the name of a real life modernist artist.
  • Parental Favoritism: Strong in the Pataki family; Olga is praised for her accomplishments and is given more attention than Helga, which causes a one-sided strain between the two. Olga actually wished she could be like Helga, without all the fussing and attention.
  • Passive-Aggressive Kombat: Mr. Simmons' boyfriend Peter and Mr. Simmons' mother indulge in a bit of arguing during the Thanksgiving episode.
  • Personal Raincloud: A rain cloud happens at the surprise birthday party Arnold throws for Eugene.
  • Phrase Catcher: "Whatever you say, Helga." Usually said by Arnold, but has occasionally been said by a few other characters, like Gerald.
    • Also "You're a bold kid, Arnold," or some variation. Also counts as a Catchphrase, because it's only ever said by Gerald.
  • Pink Girl, Blue Boy: Helga wears a pink bow and a pink dress, while Arnold's hat is blue.
  • Placebo Effect: In "Helga's Love Potion", Helga drinks a potion to make her fall out of love with Arnold. It worked, but then she desperately wanted to reverse the effects of it because she felt empty. She was cured when she found out that all she drank was some grape soda (with a little chamomile).
  • Planet of Steves: Every man in Stinky's family is named Stinky.
  • Playing Games at Work: In the episode "Suspended", after Arnold and Harold get suspended from school, they go to the public library do some research on an appeal to the school's constitution. However, only Arnold does any actual research on his computer, as Harold is seen playing a Rampage-like game on his computer, until an unamused Arnold sees it and shuts the computer off.
  • Poisonous Friend:
    • Helga, at times. Though she often means well in situations where she is made to help others, her idea of the right way to do something is a little... skewed. In episodes where she gives advice or puts down a plan of action, chances are that plan will be harsh, immoral, and ultimately not helpful. She lampshades it in "Deconstructing Arnold" while explaining to Arnold why he is the right person to give advice and she... isn't.
    Helga: (cheerfully) Look at me! I'm terrible at helping others. I'm the worst! I have no moral conscience whatsoever.
    • The way Helga treats Phoebe can also be unpleasant at times.
    • Sid is this as well. He turns on his "friends" at the drop of a hat and will usually do something to mess everything up.
  • Police Are Useless: While Hillwood's police force is shown to be a relatively competent lot, (they quickly begin looking for wayward Sid, Stinky, and Harold in "On The Lam", for example) they do have their moments of being incompetent and of no help to the kids. For example, in "Freeze Frame" where they laugh off Arnold and Gerald when they express their concerns that someone may about to be murdered.
  • Politically Incorrect Villain: Helga and Big Bob are both implied to be homophobic considering all the pejorative names they call Mr. Simmons. (i.e. "throw pillow", "cream puff", "tea cozy".)
  • The Pollyanna:
    • Eugene's optimism is almost frightening, given his bad luck.
    • Also Lila, who is devastatingly poor and has a Missing Mom, but always smiles and acts polite. This makes sense when you realize that Lila is now taking on the responsibility of caring for her father all by herself at the age of nine. This is already a tough task as an adult, but as a child it has to be even more difficult. Also considering that she doesn't want her father to worry about any of this forces Lila to smile and keep her real feelings tucked away. Much like in real life, Lila is an excellent example of what can happen if a child is burdened with a heavy load at such a young age considering her repressed dark side confirmed by Craig Bartlett. See Stepford Smiler on Tropes Q to Z.
  • Poor Communication Kills: The ending of "Stinky Goes Hollywood". Stinky refuses to sign the million dollar contract to be the spokes-person for Yahoo Soda and doesn't explain why, note  giving his family and friends every reason to believe that he's refusing to sign a contract that would benefit himself and his family greatly for no reason.
    Helga: What an idiot!
  • Posthumous Character: Phil's father and grandfather are long dead, yet both are referred to in many of Grandpa's stories and appear in flashbacks.
  • Post-Robbery Trauma:
    • "Mugged" has Arnold traumatized by being mugged on the bus.
    • "Monkeyman" shows Sid not taking the theft of his boots well.
  • Potty Failure:
    • In "Phoebe's Little Problem" Harold wets his pants in front of the whole school.
    • According to Olga in "Student Teacher", Helga had a bed wetting problem until she was seven.
  • Precocious Crush:
    • In season 1, Arnold had a crush on Ruth MacDougal, a sixth grader. In "Crush on Teacher", he develops a crush on his substitute teacher. In "Summer Love", he met the eponymous Summer, who is also clearly older than him.
    • Similarly, Gerald's little sister Timberly crushes on Arnold in "Timberly Loves Arnold", much to his embarrassment.
  • Product Placement:
    • Harold has SpongeBob SquarePants posters in his room in the episode "Weighing Harold". Said show premiered shortly after this episode aired.
    • You can actually spot CatDog in the background a couple times.
  • Progressively Prettier: Helga for most of season 1 has an ape like face, a thicker unibrow, a big nose, and a big overbite, from season 2 onwards (after Art Evolution kicks in) her features are toned down and she gets cuter as a result.
  • Properly Paranoid: In most of the episodes centering Sid he's often wrong about something he suspects, but then there are those rare cases where he is right, like "Sid The Vampire Slayer" (or, at least it's implied he is right about Sid being a vampire).
  • Protagonist-Centered Morality:
    • In Eugene, Eugene, the protagonist's romantic rival was a Jerkass indeed, but the Nice Guy protagonist is trying to homewreck and harass the girl with his "persistence".
    • In the early episode "Field Trip", Arnold feels sorry for the aquarium's turtle Lockjaw and wishes he could set him free. This is accomplished by Arnold and his grandma sneaking into the aquarium at night, removing Lockjaw from the aquarium right from under the guard's nose, (not that he was paying much attention in the first place) and turning him loose in the river. Um, okay....
  • Puppy Love: The kids are probably the horniest 9-year olds in history of Western Animation, even though only one or two pairings are established canon by Craig Bartlett saying so (Arnold/Helga and Gerald/Phoebe).
  • Put Me In, Coach!:
    • Arnold, in "Eating Contest", wins after the only remaining competitor falls face first into bowl of ice cream
    • Arnold again, in "Benchwarmer", with a basketball game. This time, he comes off the bench after being benched for several games for not following his coach's ridiculous strategy and scores game winning points from a set play.
    • Eugene Horowitz, in "Coach Wittenberg", bowling. He throws the ball, falls flat on his face, but makes a wide split
  • Put on a Bus:
    • Arnold would have been put on one in the never-made Spin-Off The Patakis, ostensibly so that the focus could be put on Helga. Plenty of focus was already on Helga, the real reason was that with Arnold gone (after having dated her for years), she could be miserable again.
    • There was originally a tenant at the boarding house named Lana, but she disappeared after season 1. There was supposed to be a subplot with her falling in love with Arnold; unsurprisingly, Nick shot down that idea in a hurry, so Lana was removed as a result. But she still appeared in the title sequence.
    • Another tenant removed from the show was Mr. Smith, who was put on a helicopter.


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