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- Rabble Rouser: Played with during a major Heat Wave. The Jolly Ollie Man tries to charge the kids outrageous prices for ice cream, and Arnold convinces the crowd of kids to make a bunch of noise and give him no peace until he relents and sells ice cream at a reasonable price. Then Helga climbs on top of the truck and starts taking it even further, urging them to flip the ice cream truck over. Arnold then has to turn around and try to calm them down.
- Raised by Grandparents: Arnold is a pretty positive example. He does miss his parents to an extent but he's perfectly happy living with his grandparents and their weirdo tenants.
- Ragtag Bunch of Misfits: The Sunset Arms boarders are all very eccentric and weird, but still can't bear to be without one another.
- Raw Eggs Make You Stronger:
- Harold tried drinking raw eggs while training for an arm-wrestling match in "Harold vs. Patty", but they made him want to throw up.
- Subverted in "Old Iron Man" when Grandpa is trying to get in shape. He is shown cracking raw eggs into a glass...and then pours them from the glass into a frying pan to cook them.
- Reality Ensues:
- Arnold fixing Eugene's bike. Although the bike comes out looking like new, Arnold is still a nine-year old boy. Soon after Eugene leaves, Abner comes by with the brake cable in his mouth. Eugene rides down a hill unable to stop, made worse when he rips the handlebars off trying to steer. Eugene crashes and is sent to the hospital.
- When Arnold and Gerald go to a baseball game, they only have enough money for the tickets, until they buy some tickets half-price from a scalper. They buy the cheap tickets, overload on merchandise... and when they get to their seats, they're an obstructed view, and in the worst part of the park.
- In "Timberly Loves Arnold", Arnold fears that rejecting Timberly will hurt her feelings. When he finally does, Timberly just goes off into a tangent about waffles, goes inside for a snack and off-handly tells Arnold that he doesn't have to be her "boyfriend" if he doesn't want to be. She may have been super insistent on her infatuation, but it was still just that: infatuation. From a first-grader. It didn't matter that much to her.
- In "Principal Simmons", Mr. Simmons is given the chance to run the school as principal and imagines it as an idyllic, academic paradise for children thanks to his lenient rule and lack of restrictions. Instead it becomes a chaotic urban jungle since it turns out that some sort of order and rule are required to effectively run a school full of pre-teens.
- In "Curly Snaps", Curly has been looking forward for weeks to be the new ball monitor, and snaps when he finds out that Sid has been chosen instead of him. He takes all the dodgeballs and takes over Principal Wartz's office, refusing to come out unless his demands are met, and pelting anyone who tries to stop him with dodgeballs. At the end of the episode, Mr. Simmons finds out that Curly was the true ball monitor after all, and Curly agrees to let Sid be the ball monitor for the rest of the week. However, Principal Wartz still gives Curly detention for his reprehensible behavior.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech:
Helga: Well, you've done a great job so far, Miriam. You lost the map, you ran us off the road, you left your purse on top of the car again and we're stuck in the middle of nowhere. I'm nine years old, mom. You're the parent. You're supposed to take care of me, but you couldn't even do that. Face it, Miriam. You're a lousy mom.
- Helga delivers one to her mom in the episode "Road Trip".
Eugene: You're a fake!Maurice: I'm just an actor.Eugene: Yeah, well to millions of kids you're a hero. We looked up to you. But now I know the truth: You're nothing but a fake.Maurice: Look, kid it's just a role I play.Eugene: Come one. You're a wimp.
- She also delivers an even more scathing one to Harold in "Buses, Bikes, and Subways".Helga: Everything that happened today is your fault! You can't do ANYTHING right. Take the bus for example. Why do you think we missed it, Harold? Oh, let's see. Hmmm...maybe was it because you were too busy eating twice your body weight in chocolate num nums! Oh, how about this one? "Let's take the subway! I think it goes to Lincoln." Oh, wait! No, it doesn't! It goes straight to the bowels of the underworld. Population? Homicidal, toothless midget clowns! I know, "Let's steal their bike. They won't mind!" Now you'd think that would be enough to fill any moron's day, but you're not just any moron, are you, Harold? You're the KING, your day's just getting started. So, because of your AMAZING curiosity about the world around us, YOU PULLED THE PLUG OUT OF THE BOTTOM OF OUR GETAWAY BOAT! (sighs) You idiot...
- Helga herself got one in "Helga and the Nanny". When Inga the titular nanny was framed for theft, and got fired for it, Helga ended up feeling guilty about it and was called out by her friends. When Helga goes to confess to Inga, the nanny reveals she already knew, and tells Helga that she is a sad and troubled child who takes it out by being a Jerkass to others, and pushes away anyone who tries to help her. Cue the Downer Ending...
- Susie gives one towards Oskar in "Baby Oskar" and Oskar just kind of sits there and agrees with her.Susie: You're a grown man. When are you going to grow up and act responsible?
Oskar: I'll do it tomorrow.
Susie: Tomorrow, tomorrow, tomorrow! That's all I ever hear from you!
Oskar: What's wrong with tomorrow? It's a good day.
Susie: Tomorrow's a good day for you! Tomorrow's a grand day, because tomorrow's the day you'll get a good job! Tomorrow's the day you'll pay the bills! Tomorrow's the day you'll grow up and start acting responsible. But tomorrow never comes for you, because it's always so conveniently a day away.
Oskar: That's right, it's only a day away just like that song the little orphan girl sings!
Susie: What about today Oskar, and what about yesterday? When I needed your help you just loafed around the house! When I had to take care of the cleaning, the bills, and the baby all you could do was whine and moan, and ask me to make you a sandwich!
Oskar: That's right and you never did!
Susie: Because I was busy! You expect everyone else to take care of you!
Oskar: Susie I don't expect everyone else to take care of me. Just you!
- Everyone in the boarding house gives Oskar one in "Oskar Gets a Job". Including Nice Guy Arnold.Arnold: That's it. I'm tired of all your excuses.
Oskar: Arnold, you seem a little cranky. Maybe you should take a nap.
Arnold: Look, I only helped you because you said you were desperate. You said you wanted to change. I guess I was wrong. Mr. Kokoshka, I'm sorry but you're a huge loser!
Ernie: I told ya, that Kokoshka is a Class-A bum. A Class-A bum!
Mr. Hyunh: He just no good!
Ernie: I'm telling you Hyunh, that bum will never work a single day in his life.
Mr. Hyunh: No!
Susie: I'm sorry about Oskar, Arnold. I just wish for once he'd do what he says he's going to do. But I guess that just won't ever happen.
Arnold: I know. I thought he really wanted to change. But he was just fooling us all, just like he always does.
- Eugene delivers one to the actor portraying The Abdicator when he learns the latter is nothing like the character he plays.
- Redhead In Green: Lila is a redhead girl in green clothes.
- Repeated Rehearsal Failure:
- In "Operation Ruthless", Arnold is trying to come up with a greeting for meeting his crush Ruth at a carnival. Gerald tells him to keep it simple and just say "Hi, Ruth!" Arnold then spends most of the episode repeating "Hi, Ruth." to himself over and over so he doesn't forget it. At one moment he forgets and Gerald has to repeat it to him.
- In "Stuck in a Tree", Arnold, Harold, and Eugene are stranded on top of a tree in the park. When Chocolate Boy walks pass, they wave him over and instruct him to "Go to the fire station, tell them [they're] stuck in a tree, and don't stop for chocolate!" When Chocolate Boy walks off, he repeats the instructions to himself but mixes them up: "Go to the fire station, tell them they're stuck at a tree, don't stop for chocolate. Go to the tree, tell them they're stuck at the fire station, don't stop except for chocolate..." Harold sighs in defeat: "He's not coming back is he?" By the end of the episode, he actually does come back with the fire department.
- Rejection Affection: While Helga is busy being a Stalker with a Crush to Arnold, Brainy is doing the same to Helga, but a lot more openly. No matter how many times she hits him, he persists.
- Another example is Lulu in "Arnold Visits Arnie", the equivalent of Lila in Arnold's subconscious. He constantly rejects her affections since she's already with Arnie, yet she keeps harassing him in ways that make him feel uncomfortable.
- Rich Bitch: Rhonda has a tendency to be a rude rich girl, although it's not as bad as other examples on that page.
- Right Behind Me: Happens in the episode "Helga vs. Big Patty" when Helga makes several unflattering jokes about Big Patty, only to discover Big Patty standing behind her and clearly incensed by her mockery.
- Romantic Candlelit Dinner: One episode has Suzie Kokoshka finally throw her husband Oskar out of the apartment. Arnold, and the rest of the boarders attempt to try to get Oskar and Suzie back together by setting up a candlelit dinner on the roof of the boardinghouse.
- Romantic False Lead: Ruth and Lila for Arnold. He becomes attracted to them, but doesn't get together with them in the end, ultimately ending up with Helga.
- Rouge Angles of Satin: Occurs in "Spelling Bee" of all places, where a big banner greeting the contestants reads "WELCOME SPEELERS!"
- Rousseau Was Right: The series generally tends to support that people are good by default and only made bad by certain circumstances.
- Running Gag: There are many recurring jokes.
Helga: Look, Brainy, this is just weird. How is it that you're standing behind me again? How'd you get in this little arch? Were you waiting for me to come to this alley? What's your deal?
- While Helga fawns over Arnold and recites her poetry about him, Brainy will interrupt her with his heavy breathing, resulting in Helga hitting him with an Offhand Backhand. Also, Brainy appears in some of the...weirdest locations. They even lampshade this, and he doesn't even know what he was doing there with them in the first place.
- It's pretty common for an episode to feature a Gilligan Cut.
- Every time Arnold hits a baseball, someone is going to get hit by it. (See: "24 Hours to Live" and "Beaned") There is even an episode dealing with the idea. ("Dangerous Lumber")
- Helga's parents (Bob, especially) can never remember her age; usually guessing six, seven, or eight and then being surprised when she says she's nine.
- Whenever Helga lets out a screams out (or sometimes yells out Arnold's name), one of three things will happen:
- One, another loud sound will play while she screams.
- Two, there will be a Distant Reaction Shot of Arnold asking Gerald "Did you hear something just now?"
- Three, the scream will set off car alarms.
- In a majority of the holiday episodes, with the exception of the Halloween show, Pookie has a tendency to get her holidays mixed up.
- She celebrates Thanksgiving on Christmas.
- She celebrates the Fourth of July on Thanksgiving.
- She celebrates Groundhog's Day on April Fools' Day, and if she sees her shadow, it means 12 more days of Christmas.
- Satellite Love Interest: Ruth, the 6th grader Arnold initially was crushing on, has very little to her character aside from someone for Arnold to have a crush on. He later loses interest after realizing she's this.
- Scantron Picture: In "Apptitude Test," Harold fills in the bubbles to resemble a large letter 'H'.
- School Play: "School Play" has Mr. Simmons' class perform Romeo and Juliet.
- Screams Like a Little Girl: Sid's scream is very high-pitched and feminine.
- Screw Politeness, I'm a Senior!: Grandpa Phil and Grandma Gertie will sometimes use their age as an excuse to do whatever they want...Not to Arnold, though.
- The Scrooge: The Jolly-Olly Man. He usually acts like a general Jerkass to kid customers and sometimes drives the truck away just after stopping for waving kids. Soon revealed to be a combination of a "Well Done, Son!" Guy and Calling the Old Man Out situation with him and his boss/father, since he can't hold any other jobs.
- Second Person Attack: The show seemed quite fond of showing violence from the point of view of those being hurt, complete with accompanying Stock Footage animation of cartoonish stars flying.
- Secret Santa: In the Christmas Special, the boarding house does a thing where they give each other presents anonymously.
- Sequel Episode: "Love and Cheese" was the sequel to "Operation Ruthless", with Helga once again trying to sabotage Arnold's interest in his crush at the Cheese Festival.
- Serious Business:
- HEY EVERYONE, STOOP KID'S GONNA LEAVE HIS STOOP!!! Cue the newspaper front page headline.
- A news crew and at least a quarter of the city also showed up for Arnold's punishment in "Arnold Betrays Iggy".
- The people who play the card game in "Gerald's Game" get pretty into it, with the winners becoming kings and losers getting locked up or becoming slaves.
- Curly in "Curly Snaps" who was obsessed over being "ball monitor" (the kid whose job is to hand out and collect all the kickballs before and after recces) for a week. While every other kid thought it was a mediocre or boring chore, Curly thought it was an admirable and highly respected position. He ends up going crazy and locking himself in the principal's office in protest just because Mr. Simmons accidentally skipped his turn.
- Settle for Sibling: The Ghost Bride's ex-fianceè left her at the altar to marry her blonde sister.
- She Cleans Up Nicely: Big Patty can look nice on formal occasions. And despite her insistence that she's not pretty, Helga can look beautiful when she tries to.
- She Is Not My Girlfriend:
- Harold insists twice in the episode "Hey Harold!" that Patty isn't his girlfriend, first to Sid and Stinky then later to his overbearing parents.
- Arnold says this about Lila in her first episode, which complicates things when he realizes he does like her.
- Shipper on Deck: Despite her fear of being mocked for her feelings, the people who know about Helga's crush on Arnold were supportive of a potential relationship. Phoebe is definitely this, and Grandpa Phil might believe Arnold and Helga will end up like him and Pookie. Lila is debatably this as well, since she agreed to step aside for Helga, her supposed arch-rival, to kiss Arnold in the school play since she actually has no romantic feelings for Arnold.
- According to Craig Bartlett, Brainy is a combination of this and I Want My Beloved to Be Happy.
- Shout-Out: Go here.
- Show Within a Show: "Pop Daddy", a cop show that Arnold and Gerald are fans of, meanwhile Timberly (and supposedly Harold) is a fan of a Barney the Dinosaur parody named Wally.
- Sibling Yin-Yang: Helga is constantly ignored and would like some adoration from her parents, while her sister Olga gets all of the attention and would like to be left alone.
- Sick Episode: Helga thinks she's sick with Monkeynucleousis in "Monkey Business" and will die soon, but it turns out she's only being paranoid. She's also Completely Missing the Point, as she read about the disease she thinks she has in a book called Diseases Long Since Debunked By Modern Science.
- Signs of Disrepair: In "Dangerous Lumber", Arnold hits a home run ball that breaks a hole into a "Holywood Cow Farm" billboard leaving it reading "Holy cow".
- Silly Reason for War: In "The Pig War", Grampa takes Arnold and his friends to a reenactment of the Pig War, which in their version of history erupted into all-out war (we know it's not one of Phil's tall tales because of the other people at the reenactment).
- The Simple Gesture Wins: In "Arnold as Cupid," Arnold is trying very hard to get Oscar and Suzie back together. Shame Oscar is... kind of terrible, and completely ruins every (manufactured by Arnold) Grand Romantic Gesture. However, at the end of the episode, he actually does something unselfish and refuses money from Suzie and she's so moved by this that she takes him back.
- Single-Target Sexuality: Helga only has eyes for Arnold. Though, she does flirt a bit with Ronnie Matthews when she finds out he's a self-centered prick.
- Single Woman Seeks Good Man: Helga loves Arnold because of how nice and amiable he is.
- Skewed Priorities: In "Big Bob's Crisis", Big Bob suffers a heart attack (actually only gas) and the last thing he says before passing out is that he won't catch Wheel of Fortune.
- The Slacker: Oskar Kokoshka is very lazy and tends to whine about having to put effort in anything he needs to do. He did, however, get a job as a paperboy, take care of his sister-in-law's baby son, and learn how to read.
- Sleepwalking: Pork rinds cause sleepwalking, apparently, as Helga hilariously found out in "Helga Sleepwalks".
- Slice of Life: The show is purely dealing with events and situations that people have in real life, with very few ventures into the more fantasy stuff.
- Sliding Scale of Continuity: Level 3. While most episodes are stand-alone, there are callbacks and nods to previous episodes every so often. Plus, there are some episodes that are mandatory watch, since they introduce a new characters that become regulars. ("New Teacher", "Ms. Perfect")
- Sliding Scale of Idealism vs. Cynicism: Heavily idealistic overall. Arnold tended to believe that most people were good at heart and could work out their differences with one another — and, ultimately, the show tended to prove him right. The trade-off was that episodes with Downer Endings and Karma Houdinis hit just that much harder, for being in apparent opposition to the prevailing ideology.
- Snapback: At the end of Hey Arnold: The Movie, the streets are filled with debris, there's damage from an underground explosion, and the overpass behind the boarding house was blown up. The two episodes that take place after the movie ("April Fool's Day" & "The Journal") have no sign of any damage anywhere in the neighborhood, nor did the Sunset Arms residents receive any noticeable punishment for dynamiting the building Scheck's video wall and countdown was on.
- So Bad, It's Good: In-universe. Helga & Big Bob's reaction to Rats: The Musical of Singing Rats is to laugh at its shoddiness.
- Social Services Does Not Exist:
- Helga's mom is clearly alcoholic, her dad is about as abusive as you can get without being violent, and they're both often pretty neglectful of her.
- Arnold's in rather good hands; although his grandma is a Cloud Cuckoo Lander and his grandpa has...done some things to Arnold that is child endangerment or negligence, but it's Played for Laughs. In Biosquare, when Helga starts to flood the greenhouse after breaking the sink, Grandpa mistakes their banging for help as a sign to turn the water flow up and make the greenhouse flood faster. In On the Lam, Arnold is clearly tied up and Grandpa just assumes he's playing secret agent.
- Played straight with Stoop Kid, a kid who's living by himself with no adults, looks to be well into his teens and apparently hasn't been to school before in his life (After all, Stoop Kid never leaves his stoop) and almost everyone in the neighbourhood knows who he is and he regularly yells at people going past his house. Hasn't anybody thought of calling social services on him?
- Soldiers at the Rear: Gerald's father reveals he accidentally shot his commanding officer during basic training and was reassigned to a desk job, but was still deployed to Vietnam. While driving to another base with paperwork, he came across a wounded soldier and used his paperwork as bandages while transporting him to a field hospital.
- Something-itis: "Monkey Business" had Helga being sick and, because she reads a book of fictional diseases, thinks she has "monkey-nucleosis" (which will supposedly turn her into a monkey and is incurable). As a result, she spends what is a regular 24-hour flu being Mistaken for Dying.
- So You Were Saying...?:
- In "Timberly Loves Arnold", Arnold is about to tell Gerald's sister, the titular Timberly, not to hang out with him anymore when Lila passes by saying that she thinks they look cute together.
- In "Monkey Business", Helga reads up on a book of monkey diseases after getting kissed by one and believes she has contracted "monkeynucleosis". Convinced she's going to die, she invited Arnold over to her deathbed and tries to confess her love for him. Before she can say anything, Phoebe bursts in to tells her one important detail about the disease that she overlooked: it doesn't exist!
- Spaghetti Kiss:
- In "Love and Cheese," Arnold's Imagine Spot of romancing Lila at the Cheese Festival contains one of these, but with string cheese instead of spaghetti.
- In "Married", Helga's dream of being married to Arnold ends with them sharing The Big Damn Kiss in the middle of a pastrami sandwich - unlike most instances of the trope, they start out already looking at each other, and seem to be doing the whole thing on purpose, making it appear more like G-rated food foreplay.
- Spinning Paper: Spinning newspapers were used in a dream sequence in the episode "Married".
- Spiritual Successor: Sky Rat (Craig Bartlett's second Nicktoon) will be this when it premieres.
- Spraying Drink from Nose: All you need to do to get Gerald to do this is say buggers.
- Spotlight-Stealing Squad: Helga. She received more day in the limelight episodes than any other supporting character (even Gerald, who's supposed to be Arnold's best friend), and was the most developed character on the show. By seasons 4 and 5, she more or less became the series' true protagonist. It even extends to this very wiki. Her list of tropes on the Characters page was so long (it took up at least a quarter of the page and was twice the length of Arnold's) it was split off into a page of its own (Arnold eventually got one as well). Tropes Are Not Bad, since she's arguably the series' most popular character.
- Stalker Shrine: Over the course of the series, Helga has several different Arnold shrines in her closet, the most famous being the one made out of used bubblegum.
- Stalker with a Crush: Helga toward Arnold and Brainy toward Helga are often following them because they are secretly in love with them.
- Status Quo Is God: This is a kids' show, after all, without much semblance of continuity or an overarching plot-line. However, there are some implications of some mini-arcs, such as Arnold's relationship with Lila. The Character Development is also an aversion. The Jungle Movie resolved the status of Arnold's parents, as well as moving Helga and Arnold's relationship further.
- Stealth Hi/Bye: In the episode "Helga Blabs It All". After being treated at the dentist with laughing gas, Helga unknowingly leaves a message on Arnold's answering machine in which she declares her love for him. Her first attempt at retrieving the tape (so Arnold never hears the message) involves dressing up as a "Campfire Lass" (Scottish girl scouts, essentially) and offering to sell cookies to the boarding house residents.Grandpa: Hello... what are you supposed to be?
Helga: What's it look like? I'm a Campfire Lass. You know, faith and begorrah... haggis?
Grandpa: I suppose you'll be wanting to sell me some cookies, then. Hold on. [turns to the inside of the boarding house] Hey, Arnold! Come out here for a sec, some Scottish girl's selling cookies. You want some? [turns back to see that Helga is no longer there]
Arnold: Who was it?
Grandpa: I think it was a phantom Campfire Lass. [closes door]
- Steam Never Dies: In "The Haunted Train", an old steam train is still used to commute steel mill workers to and from the city.
- Stepford Smiler:
- Olga's cheerfulness is all an act to hide how pressured she feels over having to live up to her parents' high standards.
- Surprisingly enough, Lila. Craig Bartlett says she has a deeply suppressed dark side. Not too surprising given her and her father's poverty combined with her disproportionally positive outlook.
- Strange Minds Think Alike: This is used a lot. For example, in "Downtown as Fruits", Arnold and Gerald say "Boy, people downtown sure are friendly." when they receive a bag full of cash. They later give the rest to a family stranded with a broken-down car, who then say the same thing.
- Strictly Formula: The supernatural/horror themed episodes follow the same plot. One character tells the story of an urban legend which makes Arnold and his friends curious, one kid will believe in the tale while another kid will dismiss it as a bogus myth, the kids will encounter numerous elements from the story which will usually scare non-believer into believing, the encounters are later debunked as mundane coincidences and the kids dismiss the story as fake, and the episode will end with a stinger confirming (or strongly implying) that the legend is Real After All.
- In "Haunted Train", Grandpa tells the kids a story about a ghost train driven by a mad engineer that sends its passengers to Hell. Helga does not believe in ghosts, citing there's no scientific evidence of their existence. Arnold remarks that some things can't be proven with science and are a matter of faith. Arnold, Gerald, and Helga visit the abandoned train station at midnight and sure enough a train that fits the story's description arrives and the kids board it. During the ride, Helga is frightened as they relive the story and begins to believe. They later find out they're just on a normal train that transports steel mill workers. While Grandpa drives the kids home, they decide the haunted train isn't real. Only for the episode to end with the ghost of the mad engineer riding the train and singing about the legend.
- In "Wheezin' Ed", Gerald tells the kids the legend of the titular mobster who hid a treasure in a cave on Elk Island; anyone who tried to find the treasure would be killed by Wheezin' Ed's ghost. The kids travel to the island and seek the treasure, what they find is a cache of counterfeit coins. When the counterfeiters find them, they believe they're Wheezin' Ed and run off. Eventually the kids are rescued and the counterfeiters are arrested. Arnold believes there really is no treasure or ghost and the episode ends with a shot of the cave and the sound of evil laughter and coughing, presumably from the real Wheezin' Ed.
- In "Four-Eyed Jack", Arnold and Gerald find an old pair of eyeglasses in a box in the boarding house. Grandpa tells him they belonged to a scientist who used to live in the house and was killed in a failed experiment. His ghost allegedly wanders the house looking for the glasses. Arnold believes in the story but Gerald does not. As they explore the house at night, many weird and creepy things happen but are quickly revealed to just be actions by Grandpa and the boarders. Arnold decides there really isn't a ghost and he and Gerald go to sleep. Later that night, the ghost does appear, takes the glasses, and playfully scares Gerald.
- In "Ghost Bride", the kids hear the tale of a bride-to-be who's fiancee ran off with her sister. As revenge, the woman kills the couple with an axe while still wearing her wedding gown. When the police arrive, the bride was still in the room calmly humming the wedding march before jumping out the window to her death. It's believed that on the anniversary of the killing, the ghost bride wanders the cemetery she was buried in humming the wedding march and carrying her axe. Arnold and a group of kids go to the cemetery to prove the story isn't real only for them to be scared by Curly and Helga who dressed as the ghost bride. The episode ends with Curly still trapped in the cemetery and can hear the humming.
- In "The Headless Cabbie", Arnold tells the kids the story of the ghost of a carriage driver who was decapitated after his scarf was caught on a tree while chasing after a woman's lost dog. The kids later decide to go out for ice cream and take a shortcut through the park. They later encounter various elements from the story; the lost dog, the hook-handed man, the laughing woman, and finally the cabbie himself. But it's revealed the whole thing was just a bunch of coincidences; the hook-handed man was just a watch salesman, the laughing woman was Mr. Hyunh, and the cabbie was Ernie who took up carriage driving as a second job. After the kids go home, a woman asks Ernie to help her find her lost dog, she offers him her scarf.
- In "Sid the Vampire Slayer", Sid believes Stinky is a vampire and tries to prove it to a skeptical Arnold. Again, Sid encounters numerous coincidences that makes him believe he's a vampire; wearing sunglasses to block the sun, refusing to eat garlic, not appearing in photographs, sleeping in a coffin, and allegedly biting the neck of a goat. It turns out Stinky just doesn't like the taste of garlic, he didn't appear in the photograph because he ducked down to pick up something he dropped while Sid took the shot, the goat was a stuffed toy and Stinky was removing a loose thread with his teeth, and the coffin was just a tanning bed. When Arnold and Sid leave Stinky's house, he is seen talking to a bat and growing a pair of fangs, implying he really is a vampire.
- Stuffed into a Trashcan:
- Trash Can Day, as featured in the episode "Longest Monday", is an annual tradition where fifth graders shove fourth graders into trash cans.
- Helga's knocking Stinky in a trashcan after his "sleeping in a closet" comment in "The Little Pink Book".
- Stupid Statement Dance Mix: An actual in show example, played over "Teacher's Strike"'s credits. Slippage. Slippage. Slippage.
- Subways Suck: "Das Subway" has the main characters take the subway and getting stuck there for a bit.
- Summon Bigger Fish: In "Mudbowl", the fourth graders have to play football against Wolfgang and the other fifth graders. They decide to ask Torvald, who is older and much bigger than the fifth graders (including Wolfgang!). He effortlessly plows through the fifth graders and seems pretty unstoppable...until he trips and sprains his ankle.
- Suspiciously Specific Denial: Phoebe gives one in "Phoebe Breaks A Leg" when Arnold discovers she was faking a broken leg that pretty quickly turns into a Motive Rant partway through.Arnold: "This doesn't by any chance have anything to do with Helga, does it? Because of the way she treats you?"Phoebe: (increasingly frazzled) "That's completely ridiculous! Just because Helga's been waiting on me hand and foot ever since the bus accident - that was essentially her fault - doesn't mean that I'd falsely prolong my injury in some kind of passive aggressive attempt to reap the benefits of her guilty conscience and simultaneously give her a taste of her own bossy medicine!"
- Superstition Episode: In the episode "Friday the Thirteenth" it's Friday the thirteenth and Arnold's and Gerald's families insist they carry around good luck charms and avoid unlucky things. Arnold and Gerald try to prove superstitions are false, but end up with bad luck. Because Wolfgang gave it to them.
- Surrogate Soliloquy: Helga will often whip out her heart-shaped Arnold locket to talk to when she is alone.
- Survival Mantra: On "Das Subway", one of the passengers is advised to say this by her accompanying psychiatrist: Big. Open. Spaces. Big. Open. Spaces.
- Tattered Flag: In the Christmas Episode, Mr. Hyunh is telling Arnold about how he gave up his only daughter during The Vietnam War. During a scene depicting (possibly) the Fall of Saigon, a tattered (American) flag is prominently displayed.
- Teachers out of School:
- Protesting the shortage of supplies, the teachers went on strike. Because of the strike, the kids rejoiced that they could spend their days out of school, but found that the teachers all had found temporary jobs at all the places they liked to hang out such as the arcade, the bowling alley and the aquarium. The kids return to school to avoid the teachers, but are evicted by Principal Wartz and tells them every day the strike goes on, they cut days from summer vacation. Arnold vows to end the strike as soon as possible.
- The Thanksgiving special shows Mr. Simmons having his class put on a play of a very ideal Thanksgiving dinner, which Helga and Arnold lament that they won't have due to their dysfunctional families. They decide to abandon their families and visit Mr. Simmons for a chance at a normal Thanksgiving, only to discover that his family all hates each other.
- Team Spirit: "Benchwarmer" teaches how cooperation and treating your teammates nicely is the key to success
- Technology Porn: Arnold's room has a lot of amazing doodads. Every kid in The '90s wanted a bedroom like Arnold's.
- Tempting Fate: Examples of bad things happening right after characters remark about them not happening include:
- "The List", in which Arnold attempts to have the perfect day by doing everything on said list, which details the best things for a kid to do on a Saturday, only for everything to be derailed by something going wrong.
- "Dangerous Lumber", where after several attempts at trying to cure his "dangerous lumber" (which is him hitting and hurting someone else with a baseball every time he hits it) by going to a batting cage at Ernie's insistence that "Nothing can go wrong, and no one can get hurt". When Arnold hits the ball, he shoots it straight back into the barrel of the pitching machine, causing it to malfunction and pelt everyone else in the batting cage with a barrage of baseballs before it eventually explodes. He promptly quits playing baseball right after that.
- "The Journal": When Miles, a pregnant Stella, and Eduardo approach a smoking volcano, Eduardo says that volcanoes smoke all the time, and that's all it'll do. Said volcano proceeds to erupt.
- "Best Friends": When teamed with them as part of a school project, Arnold is telling Gerald how well Rhonda and Nadine get along despite being as different as night and day. These differences cause them to get into a heated argument throughout the episode, with Arnold in the middle.
- Terrified of Germs: Sid becomes extremely paranoid of getting infected with germs after watching a health class film about hygiene.
- Truth in Television: There is an actual condition that with Sid's problem... obsessive-compulsive disorder.
- That Poor Cat: Practically once per episode, there will be the sound of a cat yowling off-screen.
- Theme Naming: Helga and her sister have the same name: "Olga" is the Slavic version of the Germanic "Helga".
- There Are No Therapists: Averted in "Helga on the Couch", where Helga sees a psychologist and tells her about her problems.
- The Ghost: Lampshaded with Mr. Smith. "Door Number 16" was dedicated to Arnold and Gerald trying to track him down to deliver a package (apparently they had never seen him either). They were unsuccessful in their attempts.
- The Show Must Go On: In "Downtown as Fruits", Helga stalls for time in her play because Arnold and Gerald aren't there when it's their turn to go on.
- 13 Is Unlucky: Eugene's birthday is, appropriately, Friday the 13th.
- Those Two Bad Guys: Several episodes feature a pair of crooks named Vic and Morrie.
- Those Two Guys: There are several pairs frequently seen together in this series.
- Sid and Stinky.
- Grandpa Phil and Oskar.
- Ernie and Mr. Hyunh are also this sometimes.
- Throw the Dog a Bone:
- Arnold tries to invoke a moment of fortune that sticks after a series of misfortunes with Eugene in "Eugene's Bike", but even that doesn't stop the poor kid from getting hit with a baseball, choking on a hot dog, and getting seasick. It sort of works in the end, though, since Eugene still thinks it was an awesome day simply because he got to do so many fun things.
- In "New Bully On The Block" Eugene himself of all people managed to score a touchdown.
- In "Helga's Love Potion" Brainy, after countless Offhand Backhand from Helga, is kissed by her (in his forehead). He faints... of happiness!
- Time to Move: "Casa Paradiso" had Grandpa Phil try to move out of the boarding house along with Arnold and Gertie.
- Time-Shifted Actor: Arnold is voiced by Rusty Flood during the flashbacks in "Parents Day" and "Helga on the Couch" instead of Philip Van Dyke and Spencer Klein. The latter episode also had Craig Bartlett's daughter Katie voice Helga in the flashback instead of Francesca Marie Smith.
- Title Drop: Constantly in dialogue, which makes sense given that the title is a greeting. The most common drop, though, is that Arnold's alarm clock says "Hey Arnold" constantly by way of alarm.
- Title Scream: This happens in the Title sequence two or three times, which also makes it a Title Theme Tune.
- Toilet Humor:
- Everyone is constantly passing gas in "Fishing Trip" because the only food they had is beans. Harold claims that it was funny at first but then it just smelled.
- The plot of "Phoebe's Little Problem" revolves around Phoebe being the Butt Monkey of the school after accidentally breaking wind into a microphone on stage.
- Also present in the line "life was a gas but that gas has passed" in Dino Spumoni's depressing, pathetic attempt at a swan song "My Last Bow."
- Token Good Team Mate: Edmund is the single good member to the fifth graders, much to Wolfgang's chagrin. Though it's more of a case of being too dumb to be evil.
- Token Minority Couple: Some episodes had Gerald, Arnold's Token Black Friend, paired with Phoebe, Helga's half-Japanese best friend. Given the rest of their classmates they were probably better off.
- Token Rich Student: Rhonda Lloyd is always flaunting her wealth and her parents are so rich that they considered having to sell a yacht to afford their honeymoon "financial crisis", yet she attends P.S.118 along the other kids.
- One episode introduced Lorenzo, an even richer kid that was transfered to the school. His debut centers around Arnold trying to help him to act more like a kid, since he spends most of his time acting like an adult.
- Tomboy: Helga, who often hangs around the guys and scares most of them with her rough behavior and Big Patty, who beats the toughest guys in arm-wrestling.
- Tomboy and Girly Girl:
- Tomboyish Helga's relationship with the more traditionally feminine Phoebe. She is also this with Lila and with her sister Olga when she interacts with them.
- Rhonda is prissy and all about fashion, while Nadine is fascinated by bugs.
- There's also Patty and Rhonda in "Polishing Rhonda".
- Tonight, Someone Kisses: Helga and Arnold get a kiss in the School Play in "School Play".
- Took a Level in Jerkass:
- Phoebe became a lot meaner than she usually was when she became hall monitor. She got better though.
- Sid and Stinky became ruder and more inconsiderate in later seasons.
- Principal Wartz also gained a tendency to become a cranky and sometimes unreasonable Sadist Principal (with a bit of a Hair-Trigger Temper to boot) in later seasons as well. The episode "Principal Simmons" deals with Wartz's explosive behavior.
- The sixth grade girls Arnold and Gerald took to the prom return in "Phoebe Skips", with a much meaner and controlling attitude towards Phoebe. This may be a special case if they only act sweet to boys but are horrible to other girls.
- Toxic Friend Influence: In an odd form of this trope, Harold, Sid, and Stinky are all a lot nicer when they aren't hanging around with the other two.
- Trademark Favorite Food:
- Stinky often raves about his love for lemon pudding.
- Chocolate Boy. It's his freaking name! Though his addiction switches from chocolate to radishes.
- Harold and his Mr. Fudgy Bars.
- A more subtle example: Oskar can be seen eating pickles from the jar in several episodes that focus on him.
- True Companions: The Boarders, oddly enough, are always there for one another.
- Tsundere: Helga has a tendency to switch between courteous and hostile at the drop of a hat. Rhonda is also one for Harold.
- Two-Timer Date: "Arnold's Valentine" consists of Arnold trying to ask Ruth for a dinner date while at the same time having one with his pen pal Cecille, who is actually Helga pretending to be her.
- The Ugly Guy's Hot Daughter: Possibly Subverted. Helga and her father both have unibrows, potato noses, and billy goat shaped ears, and Helga is comically mistaken for a boy once. At the same time, the show has an exotic and unusual style of character design, and one need look no further than the Football Head Arnold himself for proof of this. Also, older mature Helga as seen in a few episodes is dropdead gorgeous. In contrast, Olga (Helga's older sister) is obviously perceived as pretty by others in the show.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife:
- Oskar isn't much to look at while his wife Suzie is gorgeous.
- There's also Big Bob and Miriam to a lesser extent.
- Unimpressive Progress Reveal: In the episode "Veterans Day", Phil was recounting about a mission he had in World War II. He had to transport some food elsewhere and after some time driving he decided to camp up and started thinking if any of his enemies might have already have noticed him...only for one of his comrades to ask him to join a poker game with the rest of his regiment, showing he was barely a few meters away.
- Unknown Rival: At no point in any episode involving her does Lila ever learn about Helga's animosity for her or Arnold-related jealousy. Ironically, if she did know she would probably have no problem helping Helga—and during the school play and masquerade episodes, does help—since she doesn't have feelings for Arnold anyway, but Helga insists on being antagonistic instead. Word of God is that in "The Patakis" spin-off that never was, Helga finally would have gotten the hint and become friends with Lila. The fact that Arnold would be Put on a Bus probably helped matters between them.
- Unreliable Narrator: Grandpa Phil fabricates the details of his stories at times. In one episode even he was confused about whether or not a story he told was made up or not.
- Unrequited Love Switcheroo: "Arnold Loves Lila" has Arnold reciprocate Lila's feelings for him only for Lila to start moving on. "Arnold Visits Arnie" is this crossed with Bizarro Universe where Arnold pines for "Hilda" while "Lulu" won't leave him alone.
- The Unreveal: A recurring gag was Arnold's surname never being revealed even when we think it will be. It was finally revealed as "Shortman" in The Jungle Movie.
- Urban Fantasy: Some episodes fell into stories with fanciful elements happening in modern times, namely the ones dealing with urban legends like the demon train and ghost bride.
- Vanity Is Feminine: Played with when the girls throw a makeover party and deliberately exclude the tomboyish Helga in "Helga's Makeover". When Helga tries to play with the boys instead, they mock her for being ugly and unfeminine. Helga caves and dolls herself up, then joins the other girls at the party. After a while, she starts to realize how ridiculous the whole thing is, considering their age. "We're nine years old! We don't have signs of aging!" She persuades the other girls to her side... and they wind up administering the intended makeover to one of the unfortunate boys who tried to crash their party and found himself outmatched.
- Vapor Wear: Phoebe not wearing underwear in "Phoebe Skips", due to a couple of animation errors.
- Verbal Tic:
- Monkeyman randomly says his name mid-sentence.
- Coach Wittenburg and Tish have a tendency toward malapropism, and repeating themselves. Repetitively.
- Lila repeatedly uses the phrase "oh so" or "ever so" whenever talking about how much she likes something. She's certain that she just adores this trope, just ever so much.
- Mr. Simmons often describes things as being "special" (Helga lampshades the trope when she does an impersonation of him in "Helga's Show", air-quoting the word "special" every time she uses it)
- Very Special Episode: For a kids' cartoon, the show had quite a few episodes with serious stories that featured mature subjects. For example:
- Vitriolic Best Buds:
- Helga and Phoebe, though by the end of the show this was shown to be Helga being carelessly demanding rather than actively, intentionally controlling.
- A very strong Type 2 in Grandpa Phil and Jimmy Kafka, who are best described as best friends who simultaneously like and hate each other. This is mostly because both of them are prideful, competitive, and incredibly stubborn. As a result, they spent decades not speaking to one another, a fact which both of them are shown to severely regret in the episode where he appears.
- Dino Spumoni and Don Reynolds, as demonstrated in "Dino Checks Out" and "Partners", had no difficulty finding reasons to be angry at each other but in the end were still good friends.
- Vocal Dissonance:
- Gerald, Stinky and Helga (post-Vocal Evolution; see below) have voices that are way too deep for nine-year-olds.
- Tish Wittenberg is a young, pretty blonde, but has a deep, gravelly voice befitting a 50-year-old chain smoker.
- Vocal Evolution: This only applies to characters who retained the same voice actors throughout the run of the show.
- Helga's voice progressively becomes deeper, and also has a more mature tone to it, which actually works rather well for a character whose had to learn to look out for herself at such an early age.
- Stinky's voice takes on more of an exaggeration of a stereotypical southern/hillbilly accent, with a more nasally quality as well. By the final season, his voice has dropped considerably.
- Gerald's voice changing becomes a plot point; in reality, Jamil W. Smith's voice had broken in season 3, so an episode in which Gerald has his tonsils removed, thus bringing on a change in his voice, was written. The Jungle Movie seems to have retconned this change, since Gerald's new voice actor sounds like the pre-pubescent Jamil Smith's voice from the old series.
- The hammy factor in Harold's voice took a season or two to start shining through, and after that, it gets cranked up more and more, especially when he goes into his crybaby mode.
- Phoebe's voice was a bit lower in season 1. It's especially true in "Operation Ruthless".
- It's barely noticeable, but Rhonda's voice got lower over time as well. It changes again in The Jungle Movie, going from snooty to a Valley Girl-sound.
- It wasn't just the kids that changed. Grandpa Phil's voice originally sounded forced and raspy before Dan Castellaneta started using a higher version of his Homer Simpson voice after a few episodes.
- Walk Into Camera Obstruction:
- "Wheezin Ed", this happens near the end. Where Harold is rolling and his butt fills up the screen before he runs over everyone.
- "Helga's Makeover" again with Harold; as he and the other boys are about to go to crash Rhonda's party.
- Wardrobe Wound: In the episode "Ms. Perfect", the girls in Arnold's class play a prank on Lila that results in her getting covered in spinach and running out of the cafeteria in tears.
- Wealthy Yacht Owner: When Rhonda's parents got married, Rhonda's Dad had three yachts but sold one to pay for the honeymoon.
- "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Helga and the Jolly-Olly Man both fall under the category of wanting to be appreciated by their fathers so much.
- We're Still Relevant, Dammit!: In an In-Universe example, Dino Spumoni's backstory shows us that he was trying way too hard to roll with the times, such as creating a disco album in the '70s and a rap album in the '80s. He fared better when he went back to singing his '50s tunes.
- We Want Our Jerk Back:
- In "Helga's Show," the comedic imitations Helga performs showcasing her friends' idiosyncrasies cause them to shun her. Taking Phoebe's advice, she tries a kinder approach to her humor, which falls flat. Ironically, it's Arnold who suggests that she go back to the edgier material she used before, which works.
- "Big Bob's Crisis" has the head of the Pataki clan take a kinder, simpler, less-stressful approach to life after a gas attack scare (previously thought to be a heart attack). When he begins to give up all of their modern conveniences (and she sees how others start to walk all over him), Helga tells him that she relies on him being the tough, take-charge man she knows he is. After some soul-searching, Bob decides that he can be that man and still take time away to unwind.
- Wham Line: A couple here and there, in the more dramatic episodes.
- From "Parent's Day", we have perhaps the lowest moment from Big Bob yet and a scene that veers the episode from bittersweet to full on tear jerker:
Willie: (seething with hatred) I can't reason with [my boss]. I never could ever since I was a kid.
- From "Career Day", we get three little words from Willie the Jollie Ollie Man to prove to us just why he's so messed up.
Arnold: You've known your boss since you were a kid?
Willie: He's my DAD.
- What Happened to the Mouse?:
- Tucker, Coach Wittenberg and Trish's son, is never seen after his first appearance even though his parents show up several times afterwards. He would finally return for a cameo appearance with his parents in The Jungle Movie .
- Helga's pet Monitor Lizard only shows up in "Helga's Parrot", though it is possible her parents made her get rid of it.
- In "Harold the Butcher", Mr. Green hires Harold as an apprentice at the end of the episode. Ever since we have never seen Harold working at the shop or it being mentioned.
- Speaking of Mr. Green, we never see him working as the city's councilman after he was elected in "Mr. Green Runs".
- What the Hell, Hero?: "What The Heck Helga?" in this case. Practically all the kids present in "Helga and the Nanny" called her out for framing Inga for theft.
- Where the Hell Is Springfield?: The creators are intentionally vague about where Hillwood City is supposed to be, made even more difficult by the fact that it apparently combines features of several real-life US cities, specifically Brooklyn, Portland, and Seattle. However, there are several references over the course of the show that hint at Hillwood being somewhere in Washington State or in the American Northwest, at the very least.
- Who Would Be Stupid Enough?: "Wheezin' Ed" asks the question of who would be stupid enough to make counterfeit pennies.
- Whole Plot Reference:
- Wide-Eyed Idealist: Eugene is very optimistic despite being a ridiculously unlucky jinx.
- Win Her a Prize: Seen a couple of times between Arnold and Lila, when he gained (or tried to gain) a prize this way for Lila.
- Wise Beyond Their Years:
- Arnold. He's more mature than most adults.
- Helga counts too, due to her impressive vocabulary.
- Also, Phoebe due to being highly intelligent.
- Gerald, for knowing so many of the town's legends.
- Really, most of the kids qualify as being knowledgeable for their age. You'll forget that they're supposed to be only nine.
- Work Off the Debt: The end of "Dinner for Four", where Arnold, Phoebe, Helga, and Gerald have to wash dishes to pay the bill they've racked up.
- World of Mysteries: In a sense, Hillwood itself is this. The city is a treasure trove of urban legends (like the Haunted Train and the Headless Cabbie) and just plain weirdness (like Arnold's neighbor Mr. Smith who is implied to be a spy). Though some of the legends, like the Monkeyman, are given non-mystical explanations, most of them remain unresolved.
- Worst News Judgment Ever:
- When Stoop Kid was revealed to be afraid to leave his stoop, the story dominated the front page of the newspaper. His stepping off did, too.
- The episode "24 Hours to Live" features the headline "Arnold to Die Today".
- Arnold's Humiliation Conga in "Arnold Betrays Iggy" includes getting filmed by the news. Question: why is a kid wearing bunny pajamas making it to television?!
- The Worst Seat in the House: Arnold and Gerald once wanted to go to a baseball game to see Arnold's favorite player play his last game before retiring. They decide to buy two tickets from a scalper promising them great seats for half the price of what they're selling at the ticket booth. It turns out that their seats are both in the nosebleed section and obstructed by a pole. Arnold decides to get closer to the action and ends up catching the home run ball from his favorite player at his final at-bat while simultaneously being chased by ushers.
- Writers Cannot Do Math: Many of these examples may be due to Phil's poor memory, exaggerations, or math skills.
- Grandpa once said his grandfather lived 1830-1921. He also said his grandfather participated in the tomato incident which took place in the 1770s-1780s (making him about 150 years older than Phil at least!) and in another episode we see a flashback of Phil's childhood in the mid-late 1920s where his grandfather is shown to be alive and well and only looking about as old as Phil does now. We are also given a reference to a barbecue he attended in 1926, five years after his alleged death.
- In the movie Phil claims that his father won the boarding house in a card game during the 1890s. Assuming he was at least in his 20s when he won said card game, this would make him in his early forties (if not older) when he had Phil who was born in the mid-late 1910s. We see Phil's father in multiple flashbacks of when Phil was Arnold's age and frankly he looks no older than 45 or so.
- The writers seem to flip-flop between having Harold a few years older, or the same age as Arnold and his friends. For one thing he went to pre-school with the rest of the characters and didn't look any older than them (he should've been around 8-9).
- Grandpa once said his grandfather lived 1830-1921. He also said his grandfather participated in the tomato incident which took place in the 1770s-1780s (making him about 150 years older than Phil at least!) and in another episode we see a flashback of Phil's childhood in the mid-late 1920s where his grandfather is shown to be alive and well and only looking about as old as Phil does now. We are also given a reference to a barbecue he attended in 1926, five years after his alleged death.
- Yiddish as a Second Language:
- In "Deconstructing Arnold" Harold calls Arnold a "Kibitzer": Yiddish for a non-participant person, offering (often unwanted) advice or commentary. Or as he defines it: a "big fat buttinski!"
- "Yutz" a Yiddish insult meaning "idiot" is also used occasionally by a few characters. Mostly by Helga.
- You Have to Have Jews: The Jewish faith and Jewish culture are very well represented among the cast. Harold and his parents are Jewish, as is Mr. Green the butcher (and later city councilman). Many other characters aren't explicitly Jewish but are implied to be (or at least have a strong affinity for the culture) at different times: Eugene's last name is Horowitz, Sheena can read Hebrew, Helga frequently uses Yiddish insults, and Gerald recites a Hebrew prayer in The Movie.
- You Wanna Get Sued?: Subverted in "False Alarm". Helga talks about going to Wrestlemania to see Haystacks Calhoun and there isn't even a single wink or nudge at the camera.
- You Talkin' to Me?: When Arnold becomes drunk on kung fu power, he has a scene where he repeatedly asks "You talkin' to me?".
- Younger Than They Look: The fifth graders are only a year older than the main cast, but they all look, sound (and act) like they should be in high school. Similar idea with the sixth graders. Subverted when the main characters themselves age into fifth and sixth grade; all of them look and sound much more age-appropriate.
- Your Makeup Is Running: Olga's mascara runs every time she cries.
- Your Television Hates You: In "Arnold's Hat," Arnold is depressed because he lost his hat. To take his mind off how he feels, he turns on the TV only to discover that it's Hat Day at the local ballpark and everyone is wearing one. It doesn't help.
- Your Tomcat Is Pregnant: In "Das Subway", it turns out that "Killer", a seeing eye dog, was pregnant and has puppies in the stalled subway car.
- Youthful Freckles: Eugene and Lila are children with freckles.