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Confused Question Mark

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The question mark is a common, handy visual representation of confusion, surprise, or just being plain weirded out. It can manifest as several question marks floating around the nonplussed character's head, a single such symbol hovering over the character, or pop up as the contents of a thought bubble (or a regular Speech Bubble, in which case it seems to represent the "huh?" sound). Compare Visible Silence.

See also My Name Is ???, where it is used as a symbol of the unknown. Compare Alertness Blink.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In the Yu-Gi-Oh! episode where Joey is forced to wear a dog suit, he actually holds a sign with a question mark on it when he's confused about Dungeon Dice Monster's rules.
  • Hanaukyō Maid Team:
    • Episode 9. Konoe Tsurugi refuses to have her picture taken because she doesn't want the camera to steal her soul. When she hears this, Mariel has three question marks appear next to her head, one at a time.
    • Episode 11. When Ryuuka asks Taro if he's interested in someone else, he looks at Mariel. Mariel then has question marks to each side of her head. Later, when Ryuuka appears before Taro in his bath a question mark appears over his head.
    • Episode 12. Ryuuka has just given Taro a giant cake shaped like her for his birthday. When she sees him staring at it, a question mark appears over her head.
    • Episode 15. Taro has a question mark appear above his head several times when he's puzzled.
  • One Piece: Used by the Gorgon sisters and Luffy when they find out the latter is immune to Hancock's petrification powers.
  • In the Warrior Cats manga Warrior's Refuge, when Millie starts speaking Dog, the two dogs look at each other and one has a question mark appear over its head.
  • Cap Revolution Bottleman: In episode 22, Momo has a question mark when she asks what the name of a certain team is, as they hadn't come up with one yet.

    Asian Animation 
  • In Happy Heroes, occasionally, characters might have a question mark pop up next to them when they are puzzled about something.
  • In Pleasant Goat and Big Big Wolf, when characters are confused or surprised, question marks might briefly appear over their heads.

    Board Games 
  • Chess notation marks bad moves with one question mark, blunders (very bad moves) with two.

    Comic Books 
  • Commonly used in French comics like Asterix and Lucky Luke.
  • Very common in Tintin.
  • Wonder Woman Vol 1: When Diana lifts a car that was about to hit a child a large question mark appears by the driver's side of the windshield, as both Diana and the child had been in a blind spot.

    Comic Strips 
  • Peanuts uses the "'?' in speech bubble" variety.
  • Beetle Bailey. General Halftrack sometimes has a question mark appear over his head when he comes upon members of his staff acting in a bizarre manner.
  • All Popeye comic strip artists have used this, but none so more than Bud Sagendorf, who downright littered his strips with question marks. A panel with question marks in four or five individual speech bubbles were hardly unusual.
  • The Phantom and Mandrake the Magician uses a lot of question marks in indvidual speech bubbles. It's probably no coincidence that both strips were created and written by Lee Falk.

    Films — Animation 
  • In Aladdin, the Genie's ponytail forms a question mark as he wonders what riding animal to turn Abu into.
  • In Yellow Submarine one of the cat-like Butterfly Stompers has a tail that momentaily goes question mark.

  • Done in The Colour of Magic to represent that the tourist Twoflower doesn't understand what the Ankh-Morporkeans are saying.

  • Psychedelic band ? and the Mysterians.

  • On the Tamagotchi handhelds, giving a Tamagotchi certain toys can invoke this.

    Video Games 
  • BoxxyQuest: The Shifted Spires: A Pictorial Speech-Bubble of this is used by Catie in the opening, after which she says:
    ...where am i?
  • Item Crash with a key in Castlevania: Dracula X and your character will flash a question mark. The same happens in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night if you use the Shield Rod's special ability with the Alucart Shield equipped.
  • In Cave Story, trying to examine an object without something to examine will cause a question mark to pop up over your character's head.
  • Nospikes from Commander Keen 6 like to charge at you, but if they run off a ledge, they stand in mid-air for a while and a question mark appears above their head before they fall.
  • Deltarune: In Chapter 2, Noelle's ACT-ready animationnote  shows her mimicking Kris's thinking pose with a confused expression and question marks over her head.
  • Disgaea has no confusion status effect, but it uses question marks to represent amnesia (the "silence" Status Effect) instead.
  • If the Elite bosses from Hero Core try to use an ability Cast from Hit Points with only one point left, a question mark will appear above their heads.
  • In the Hitman World of Assassination Trilogy, these appear over an NPC's heads when you distract them with a coin or object, or do something unusual in their presence for a few seconds. In some cases, they'll do this when you offer them food or drink when disguised as a waiter or chef.
  • Hyrule Warriors has three characters with confused titles: Agitha the "Insect... Princess?" Tingle the "Reincarnated Fairy?" and Linkle "The Heroine?"
  • Knights of Pen and Paper 2: The "Confusion" Status Effect symbol is a purple question mark, and the afflicted character has three of them coming out of their head.
  • When a soldier in Metal Gear sees something unusual, a question mark appears above their head (followed by an exclamation mark if they see you).
  • In Ōkamiden, since Chibiterasu relies on his partners for exposition, any time you try to examine something without your partner, all you get is a whimper and a ? above Chibi's head.
  • The Other: Airi's Adventure: Pictorial Speech-Bubble of them are used when people get confused, like Airi, when she finds out that the Park has become an Unnaturally Looping Location.
  • Pokémon:
    • In Pokémon Red and Blue, the confusion status effect was indicated by two question marks appearing above the Pokémon's head, each accompanied by a sound effect suggesting the "huh?" sound.
    • In the Pokémon Stadium games, question marks appeared above a confused Pokémon's head. In other games, it is usually portrayed by birds flying around its head.
    • In the Pokemon Mini game, Togepi's Great Adventure, after Togepi completes the Tower Of Origin, Togepi comes across a Donphan that accidentally collides with Togepi to send it flying (thus kicking off the Tower Of Adventure), prompting Donphan to stop and glance behind it in puzzlement, with a question mark appearing above it.
  • In Psychonauts, the icon for the "confusion" power depicts a perplexed head surrounded by question marks, and the confusion projectile itself looks like a giant question mark that the protagonist throws at the enemy, after pulling off the dot like a grenade pin.
  • Remnants of Isolation: Multiple times of such a Pictorial Speech-Bubble from the Girl who would be named Celesta:
    • In the opening cutscene, she has one after the door to her cell mysteriously disappears.
    • When leaving her cage, she says one when looking back to where the barrier was, presumably confused even after confirming its disappearance.
  • Sonic the Hedgehog:
    • In Sonic the Fighters, right after Dr. Eggman zaps your character with a cloning ray (which produces a grayscale doppelganger).
    • In Sonic Adventure, the Chao sometimes turn the floating balls atop their heads into question-marks.
  • In Stealth Bastard, a question mark appears over to robots and cameras if they detect the presence of the player but haven't gotten fully alert yet.
  • The "Use" command in Tombs & Treasure depicts a man scratching his head with one of these floating next to him.
  • A Very Long Rope to the Top of the Sky: A Pictorial Speech-Bubble of this is used by Gainer when sneaking into his house, and is confused, and then he says:
    Gainer: Where are all the servants?


    Web Original 
  • The standard emoticon for confusion is a colon and question mark, thustly: :?
  • Doraman: The thumbnail for "Who is Doraemon?" shows Doraemon with pink question marks surrounding his head. This indicates that the video is asking who the character is.
  • The trademark of the perpetually confused Blitz on The Funday Pawpet Show. A question mark was put on a stick and floated above him.

    Western Animation 
  • In the Tom and Jerry cartoon "Ah, Sweet Mouse-Story of Life," Jerry ends up walking off a construction beam and a question mark appears above his head just before he falls. In a Ninja Prop moment, he grabs the question mark and uses it as a hook to latch onto a ledge. Tom later attempts the same thing, but before falling he becomes shocked rather than surprised, getting an uselessly straight exclamation mark instead.
  • A question mark appears above DM's head at least once in Danger Mouse.
  • Felix the Cat would often pick up the question marks that form over his head and use them as tools. In at least one cartoon, his tail turns into a question mark.
  • In the Classic Disney Short A Gentleman's Gentleman, as Pluto the Pup wonders how to get a gumball from a gumball machine, one of his ears forms a question mark.
  • Variation: The Beatles cartoon "Penny Lane" has an exclamation mark over Paul's head when he and the boys discover that the crime they were trying to thwart wasn't at Penny Lane in Liverpool but with heiress Penelope Lane, which secret agent James Blond had already thwarted. Earlier in the episode, the group had question marks over their heads when they see a panhandling trumpet player taking a lunch break.
  • Kaeloo: In "Let's Play Teachers", several question marks appear next to Kaeloo when she asks Stumpy who Mr. Coolskin is.
  • In Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM), despite the generally serious tone, one of these appears for a split-second, maybe a frame, over Dr. Robotnik's head when he falls into a pit trap set by Antoine.

    Real Life 
  • If a Apple Macintosh computer cannot find a bootable hard drive on startup, it will display a flashing question mark.
  • Can happen on any text-based messaging platform, from instant messaging to comment sections, where responding in nothing but question marks is perfectly possible. Sometimes people react to a particularly perplexing story or image with just a string of dozen or more question marks.
  • According to one story, Ernest Hemingway, wondering how well one of his books was selling, sent the publisher a telegram with just "?". As the book was doing quite well, the publisher sent back a telegram with just "!".


Video Example(s):


Mr. What?

Kaeloo doesn't know who Stumpy's favorite superhero is.

How well does it match the trope?

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Main / ConfusedQuestionMark

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