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Delusions of Eloquence

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Walking the thin line between this trope and plain aphasia.
Douglas Klump: The perimeters of our assignment were described to us with specificity, Mr. Shlubb. We are to deposit our cargo into the body of water which we now overlook. It was likeways made clear to us that any embellishments of said perimeters would not be advisory.Translation 
Burt Shlubb: I cannot prescribe to such a narrow interpretation of the perimeters which you now invoke, Mr. Klump.Translation 

Delusions of Eloquence occur when a person tries too hard to sound "educated" by using Big Words or carefully chosen phrases, but gets it wrong, filling their dialogue with malapropisms, mispronunciations, and mangled grammar. The result is that they sound less educated and at the same time a pompous and pretentious attention seeker.

In fiction, this habit can be used to set up a character as a stuffed shirt who demands respect but is mocked behind his back or to add charm or humor to a character who would otherwise seem a little flat. Unfortunately, it is sometimes a case of Truth in Television, as there really are people who do this.

Note, this trope works better in print. Characters with Delusions of Eloquence are really funny in the comics, where you can look at the talk bubbles and see, in black and white, what they are doing to our mother tongue. In a film, they just come across as two mooks who talk too much. ("Low-rent thugs with delusions of eloquence," as Hartigan puts it).

This delusion is often associated with a Know-Nothing Know-It-All or Fake Brits. A character using familiar words but pronouncing them fancily is giving them Pretentious Pronunciation. Compare Buffy Speak, where the ideas may be legitimately sophisticated, but the speaker lacks the ability to properly articulate them, Malaproper, where the character may misuse words completely by accident, Meaningless Meaningful Words, when they attempt to sound deep and profound but instead regurgitate flowery word salad nonsense (while also being likely to perceive other examples of this as profound), and Technobabble, where the words may have no meaning at all. Contrast Spock Speak and Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness, where the big words and proper grammar are used correctly, but for differing reasons. See also You Keep Using That Word, for when a character calls out another for misusing a word. When used in written media, this can overlap with Rouge Angles of Satin. When intentionally used for humour, may be an Expospeak Gag. And finally, contrast Sophisticated as Hell, where the user combines more down-to-earth language with Big Words.

No Real Life Examples, Please! This exists, but this site does not seek to be judgmental and insulting towards people.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • Ranma ½: Tatewaki Kunō. "The vengeance of heaven is slow but sure...". One of his least head-aching speeches.
  • In BanG Dream!, Kaoru constantly tries to sound like an eloquent, insightful, sophisticated princely type, complete with constant references to The Great Bard. It works... on her fangirls, anyway. Anyone who spends more than five minutes in her presence, however, realises very quickly that nothing she says actually makes a lick of sense. In particular, she overuses the word 'fleeting' to the point that nobody can figure out what she's trying to mean by it.

    Comic Books 
  • Sin City has the former (and, in a roundabout way, current) trope namers Shlubb and Klump. What can you say about people who render "circumnavigation" as "circumlocution" (when talking about driving around the block, yet!) or "quenched" as "quelched" or refer to "Consequences most dire" being "athwart us" or... you get the picture.
  • The Elseworld version of Hank McCoy in X-Men Noir does this, in a sort of parody of the mainstream incarnation's Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness.
  • Lucullan from Empire does this often.
  • Green Lantern: Larfleeze, largely because he's a Psychopathic Manchild who's Really 700 Years Old.
  • Imperial Pimpotron Alpha from Empowered, who could give Marcus a run for his money. It seems that his speech derives from We Will Use WikiWords in the Future, which results in some weird neologisms:
    Imperial Pimpotron Alpha: For I, Imperial Pimpotron Alpha am scouticruiting you for priviligious erotiservitude in the Cosmolactic Emperor's Harem!
  • Runabout from Transformers is a good example. He and his best friend/partner-in-crime Runamuck are basically delinquents who love pranks and graffiti. The difference is that while Runamuck is fully aware that what the duo are doing is childish and silly (and gladly embraces this fact), Runabout has deluded himself into believing that he's a brilliant, Banksy-style artist who creates revolutionary art and social commentary. His art is actually poorly scribbled phrases like "humans are wimps".
  • In Chapter 7 of the Space Western Lawless: Ballots over Badrock in Judge Dredd Megazine, Deputy Nerys Peffiter is trying to write a formal testimony about the corruption she's uncovered, which is an odd mix of Western-talk and what someone who doesn't speak legalese thinks legalese sounds like. (She's in no way stupid; she's a competent administrator who uncovered some well-hidden corruption. She just isn't sure how you're supposed to write these things up.)
    Peffiter's narration: Thus I'm afeared, further not-so-with, that there is a lot of hardship. People are still copin' with injuries from the war, or post-traumatic stress. Business may be boomin', but the people of Badrock ain't.
    Peffiter (reading this back to her teddy bear): Is "not-so-with" correct, Mr Grossums? I reckon so. Anyway ... Item two...
    Peffiter's narration: ...The usual arbiter of stablity, Metta Lawson, is of late no longer en-badged as marshal herewithout. She was a fine marshal and protected Badrock with all her born heart, but there was an election for mayor, in which she ran, but which was, withall and not withstanding, won in most unexpected fashion by Royal Wilty. More of that matter, aforelong hereafter, in item seven.

    Comic Strips 
  • 91:an Karlsson: The Tofta gang's leader Berra tends to overestimate his smarts. For instance, has tried to declare himself a genius using the term "genialisk" only to pronounce it as "genitalisk" ("genital") several times.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Animation 
  • Up: Alpha tends to do this, intentionally using more "educated" language over the other dogs despite being just as much of a, well, dog.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • George McFly in Back to the Future, though probably more out of being nervous around girls than ignorance:
    George: Lorraine, my density has brought me to you.
  • In Who Framed Roger Rabbit, the head weasel talks like this. Saying things like "Do you want us to disresemble the place?" and offering to "repose" of Roger.
  • Super Mario Bros. (1993) has henchmen Iggy and Spike use this after they've been evolved into an "advanced" form, showing that even with enhanced intelligence, they're still pretty dumb.
  • Leo Gorcey's Slip Mahoney character, in the Bowery Boys movies, was all about this trope.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: "Are you addressing I?"
  • Chance the Gardener in Being There is a man with mild mental delays who can't take care of himself, but he's dressed so well everyone assumes he's rich and thinks everything he says is a profound statement. Subverted in that Chance himself was just responding in the only way he knew how.
  • In the film adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, Stefano claims that he wants to "facilitate and remain observatory" while working for Uncle Monty.
  • In Good Will Hunting, the scene where Chuckie poses as Will in the job interview.
  • In Animal House, Eric Stratton is trying to impress an older woman (who turns out to be the wife of the college's Dean) in the grocery store, as he picks up a large cucumber:
    Eric: I think vegetables can be very sensuous, don't you?
    Mrs. Wormer: No, vegetables are sensual. People are sensuous.
  • In Sexy Beast Don Logan likes to think he's smarter than the protagonists, but his rapid-fire speech is half Cluster F-Bomb and half this, with needless extra words and non-words ("insinuendos") everywhere.
  • In Election:
    Tracy Flick: What happened at the speeches was an "unconscienceable'' tragedy.
  • My Fair Lady essentially starts with Professor Henry Higgins casually wagering that although his peers believe in this trope, he can overcome it and teach a commoner to blend in with the British upper class. With much of the movie essentially an elaborate socialite training montage for Eliza Doolittle, this trope happens multiple times before he can teach her to surpass it.
  • What a Carve Up!: Working in the publishing industry — albeit as a proofreader of lurid horror novels—Ernie has an overinflated opinion of his level of culture and education. Best demonstrated when he explains the vital importance of his job as proofreader while completely mangling the grammar of the sentence. The bemused look on Syd's face is something to behold.
  • In The Locals, The Bogan Nev tells Paul that the girls he is trying to hook up with are dead, and that they call that 'haemophilia'. His mate Tone hurriedly whispers that the word is 'necrophilia'.
  • In Glass Onion, brilliant but erratic tech innovator Miles Bron's language is peppered with plausible but nonexistent words and ones that aren't quite correct. In fact, it's plot-relevant; as it turns out, Miles is just an idiot who steals other people's ideas.

  • Edgar Allen Poe's How to Write a Blackwood Article centers around a young woman hoping to learn to write well who's taught the tricks of the trade by an Author Avatar. Naturally, her subsequent story proceeds to horrifically mangle the vocabulary, quotes, and plot devices she was given, implying that Poe's writing wasn't as formulaic as his critics would have you believe.
  • Raymond Briggs' character James Bloggs. We first meet him in Gentleman Jim, where he has been a toilet attendant for many years, never moving up in the world because he "lacks enterprise and initiation" and "doesn't have the levels" ('O' and 'A' levels, school certificates or "cerstificates" as James puts it). We see him again in When the Wind Blows, where he and his wife, Hilda, prepare for nuclear war. "It could affect us all, the Ultimate Determent an' that." "I think it's called the Big Bang theory."
  • Guido, one of the two good Mooks from Robert Asprin's Myth Adventures series.
    • Mind you, Guido has an MBA and has said that he spent considerable time perfecting his mook-speak, because (as with Chumley's Hulk Speak) he constantly deals with people who respect street smarts and a capacity for violence more than higher learning. The series as a whole has a similar preference, though... the one character who uses Sesquipedalian Loquaciousness is playing dumb.
    • It's also mentioned that Guido was in Guys and Dolls when he was in school, and developed a fondness for his character's speech patterns.
  • How NOT to Write a Novel starts its section on wording and phrasing with first "The Puffer Fish", described as "Wherein the author flaunts his vocabulary", but then goes into "The Crepuscular Handbag", described as "Wherein the author flaunts someone else's vocabulary". The example passage is a rape scene that's made difficult to take seriously by misusing a word every other sentence; for example, it describes the villain slavering a drug into a drink, ululating under his breath, whickering a cruel joke, and vacating in his victim.
"Using a word almost correctly, or using a word almost exactly like the right word, amounts to almost speaking English. You may think that the occasional slip-up won’t matter; but the language you choose is the clothing in which your novel is draped, and saying “incredulous” when you mean “incredible” is the prose equivalent of walking into a meeting wearing your underwear on the outside."
  • A character in War and Peace speaks in unintelligibly mangled French to sound more intelligent and impress a girl.
  • Shrub and Klump Russian as used by Modest Kamnoyedov from Strugatsky Brothers' novel Monday Begins on Saturday. He is a bureaucrat working in the Institute of Sorcery and Wizardry, fails to get the local Techno Babble but still tries to use it. Hilarity Ensues (for example, he pronounces the word homunculus as "hum-moonkles").
  • Discworld:
    • Colon and Nobby tend to slip into this when no one else is around. Particularly noticeable in Thud!
    • Ridcully, who has no patience for terminology, never lets nitpicking slow him down: thus the space-time continuinuinuum.
  • In The Rivals, this is an infamous attribute of one character, Mrs. Malaprop.
  • Owl in Winnie the Pooh is rather like this; he's supposed to be what a young child would think sounds educated.
  • Older Than Print: The Host in The Canterbury Tales.
  • One of Dave Barry's "Mister Language Person" columns suggested using this as "Power Vocabulary" to impress your boss with:
    You: Good morning, Mr. Johnson, you hemorrhoidal infrastructure.
    Your Boss: What?
  • In Bridget Jones: The Edge of Reason, Bridget tries to start off her interview with Colin Firth by asking him about a movie of his that isn't Pride and Prejudice, and comes up with: "Do you think the book of Fever Pitch has spored a confessional gender?" (She was supposed to ask him if it had "spawned a confessional genre," but had heard the phrase wrong.) He struggles to come up with a reasonable answer to this nonsensical question.
  • Informed example: the narrator of Anton Chekhov's short story "Peasants" characterizes the "hetman" of the village, saying that he is unable to read but had acquired "bookish expressions." The reader never hears much of his speech but is left to imagine that it would be much like this.
  • In Les Misérables, the villainous Thenardier is a frequent example of this. He speaks and writes in a flowery manner that gives him the air of a philosopher/intellectual, but his writing is filled with misspellings, and Hugo comments to the effect that his obsession with Big Words shows a stupid person's understanding of what a smart person sounds like. Thenardier also frequently defends arguments by fraudulent citations of famous people, but has no actual knowledge of those authorities, except that they are famous (e.g. he will cite to the novels of someone who only wrote poetry). His wife also demonstrates this through the odd names she gave to her daughters, taken from romantic novels. This choice is very similar to the idea underlying a Ghetto Name.
  • Occurs in Richard Lederer's Anguished English books. This example is from a court transcript:
    Attorney: How did you know he was drunk?
    Witness: Because he was argumentary and he couldn't pronunciate his words.
  • The mother of the title character in Mark Twain's "A Dog's Tale" used fancy-sounding human words she didn't know the meaning of while speaking to other dogs in an attempt to seem important. When asked to explain what they meant, she would come up with a nonsensical explanation with more fancy-sounding words.
    And every day the friends and neighbors flocked in to hear about my heroism — that was the name they called it by, and it means agriculture. I remember my mother pulling it on a kennel once, and explaining it in that way, but didn't say what agriculture was, except that it was synonymous with intramural incandescence.
  • Ravenor has the rogue trader Sholto Unwerth, whose mangling of the English language must be seen to be believed.
    Sholto Unwerth: I miss nothing, eaves-wise. Ears as sharp as pencils, me. No, no. All fair. If Mistress Zeedmund here finds me an abject increment to her affiliations, and wants no more of me, all she has to overtake is a word in my general. A simple ingratitude from her, and I will be, so to speak, out of your air. Without any requisite for shoving, slapping, or harsh language. On the however hand, if what I have so far expleted trickles her fancy, I would be most oblate to dispel some more, at her total inconvenience, on the subject of what I have pertaining in my cargo hold.”
  • Augustus and Hazel from The Fault in Our Stars are borderline cases—they get some of their longer and/or rarer and/or archaic words right and then misuse "transmit" or "soliloquy", for just two examples.
  • Monday Begins on Saturday: The hack academician Amvrosiy Amvrosiy Vybegallo speaks in unintelligibly mangled French and tries to imitate sophisticated syntax to sound more intelligent and conceal his lack of intellect and manners. And impress a girl.
  • Anansi Boys: The Bad Boss and one of the major villains of the piece, Grahame Coates, uses Malapropisms, Meaningless Meaningful Words, Ice Cream Koans and the like constantly because he thinks it makes him seem more intellectual and approachable. All it really does, though, is emphasize the fact that he's a spiteful little weasel. At the end, Tiger gets fed up with this and just eats him.
  • In the Shakespearian Star Wars series by Ian Doescher, Watto the junk dealer is explicitly made to be the equivalent of Dogberry from Much Ado About Nothing. For example, he refers to his hyperdrive generator as "this extensive part" instead of "this expensive part".

    Live-Action TV 
  • (Zigzagged) Shlubb and Klump French: Perceval and Karadoc from Kaamelott. While they occasionally play the trope straight, most of their word-based humor comes from them having no clue what some relatively complex words mean, and they don't attempt to use it. Then there's the "secret technique" that resulted in Memetic Mutation: "c'est pas faux" (translating to "that's not wrong" or "yeah, I guess"), which allows the user to mask his ignorance in a conversation.
    • One minor character inverts this, as he can't remember the "big words", and of course serves as messenger between Lancelot's rebels and Arthur. He memorably turned "The king sends an ultimatum" into "The king sends a nutritionist".
  • Arthur Daley, the Honest John of Minder, often uses larger words than he understands and is prone to malapropisms, as tries to present himself as genteel and upper crust.
  • The best-known interpreter of Runyonesque dialogue was character actor and TV producer Sheldon Leonard. He actually spoke in a Runyonesque way in real life, but only his characters displayed Delusions of Eloquence. In real life, Leonard was NOT prone to misusing words — it is just that his impressive vocabulary and formal speech (which did not employ contractions) seemed at odds with his lower-class accent. Leonard's distinctive version of the overly literate gangster/thug kept him employed in movies, radio, and television for nearly sixty years. When not doing character parts, Leonard produced TV classics like The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Andy Griffith Show, and I Spy, often doing guest shots on his own shows.
  • The In Living Color! sketch character, Oswald Bates, is an inmate who delivers self-educated political ramblings. The humor is based on his misuse of vocabulary, and anatomical terms in particular.
    "First of all, we must internalize the flatulation of the matter, by transmitting the effervescent of the indonesian proximity, in order to further segregate the crux, of my venereal infection. Now, if I may retain my liquids here for one moment, I'd like to continue the redundance of my, quote-unquote, "intestinal tract", see, because to preclude on the issue of world domination would only circumvent... excuse me, circumsize the revelation that reflects the aphrodesiatic symptoms, which now perpetrates the gericurl's activation."
    "Allow me to expose my colon, once again, the ramification inflicted on the incision placed within the Fallopian cavities serves to be holistic, taken form the Latin word, 'jalapeno'..."
  • An episode of M*A*S*H has Radar taking a correspondence course in creative writing. The episode consists mainly of him writing the daily reports like a bad novel, in the process angering Colonel Potter.
  • This was the schtick of Maple LaMarsh on Remember WENN.
  • Firefly: The scene from the bar in the "Train Job" episode? ("This is a most... Ass-picious day!")
  • In the Castle episode "Overkill" the hungover motel clerk tends to babble on in a fashion like this ("I appreciate you guys intervejecting [sic] with the police down there on my behest.")
  • The Detroit 1-8-7 episode "Beaten/ Cover Letter" featured a boxer's manager who spoke like this— and a detective who mocked him for it.
  • One of the running gags on It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia is Charlie's tendency to slip into this mode whenever he tries to impress people. One of the most memorable happens when he receives advice on how to talk to a beautiful woman.
    Mac: Just tell her you're a philanthropist. Chicks dig it when you work with kids and senior citizens and crap.
    Woman: So what do you do for a living?
    Charlie: I'm a ... full-on-rapist ... you know, kids and old people, mainly.
  • In one episode of Boy Meets World, Eric gets a word-a-day calendar to improve his vocabulary and he tries to use these words in conversation but repeatedly fails at it. By the end of the episode, he gets the hang of it but annoys everybody by using big words in mundane conversation.
  • An episode of Friends had Joey writing a letter and discovering, to his delight, the thesaurus function on his word processor. Given the tool's imprecisions, his letter (and his dialogue for the rest of the episode) became this trope.
    Chandler: [reading from letter] "Baby kangaroo Tribbiani"?
  • Michael Scott of The Office (US) is likely to use several of those every time he speaks.
    • And when he "improvs conversation" as he puts it, expect him to confuse everyone including himself, leading to a metaphorgotten.
  • Gob of Arrested Development has not mastered either the meaning or pronunciation of "circumvent" (once pronouncing it "cir-sum-vrent"). He does not fare any better with "consummate" either.
  • Mrs. Slocombe of Are You Being Served? was frequently prone to this, including in one of her catchphrases ("And I am unanimous in that").
    "The earth began as a soup, with little orgasms floating about in it."
  • The police version is displayed by Dave, a police officer in Parks and Recreation, especially in his second appearance on the show. His "talking head" segments are delivered like police reports, and in general, he has a tendency toward malapropisms and using Perfectly Cromulent Word(s).
  • Sabalom Glitz, Doctor Who's very own Honest John's Dealership who appears in the serials "Trial of a Time Lord" and "Dragonfire", tends to drift into this when attempting to convince others of his intelligence and sophistication.
  • Played for laughs a lot in Only Fools and Horses. Del Boy uses French words and phrases, and sometimes long English words, in an effort to sound sophisticated, knowledgeable, and/or upper-class. He fails. Other characters also do this from time to time, principally Boycie.
  • On Desperate Housewives:
    Danielle: You're always mean to me, just like you were to Dad! You emasculated him. Well, you're not going to emasculate me!
    Bree: You don't even know what that means, you petulant sockpuppet!
    Danielle: Who. Cares. I'm going to the store.
    Bree: [as Danielle walks out] BUY A DICTIONARY!
  • In Trailer Park Boys, most of Ricky's Malapropers have no such delusions, but he will occasionally try to use fancy terms which inevitably fall into this trope.
    Ricky: You're going to do us a little favour. Au Gratin.
  • Little Carmine Lupertazzi, in his constant efforts to demonstrate erudition he never had and couldn't begin to spell, fell prey to this on The Sopranos with monotonous regularity.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus mines comedy by portraying Australian attempts to be erudite, indulging in the English stereotype that Australians are uncultured boors.
    • The "Bruces" sketch is about the philosophy department at the fictional University of Woolloomooloo, where all the professors are ockers named Bruce who fixate on getting drunk.
    • "Australian Table Wines" is a high-class discussion of various Australian wines. One is said to "really open up the sluices at both ends" and another "should be used only for hand-to-hand combat."
    • Also a common tendency of Eric Praline, viz. the man what purchased the dead parrot.
  • A sketch in The Benny Hill Show has Benny, playing a French film director, being interviewed by Henry McGee, who is not as fluent in French as he thinks:
    McGee: I liked the scene in your latest film when the girl says to the man, "I want a life in the grand manner"
    Benny: When does she say that?
    McGee: In the restaurant, when she says, "Je voudrais le moue meuniere".
    Benny: Actually, what she actually says is, "Je voudrais les moules marinieres", that means, "I'll have the mussel soup."
  • In Netflix's A Series of Unfortunate Events, Count Olaf has a habit of spicing up his vocabulary with big words that he uses right about half the time. (When he hits, he dismisses a movie theater as a "godforsaken nickelodeon".)
  • Australia You're Standing In It: Tim and Debbie frequently mispronounce ("igniminiminous") and misuse ("vale" to mean "bravo") lofty-sounding words, and utter lengthy sentences meant to sound deep but that are just incoherent.
    Tim: Cause it's the things you don't know you know, that you think you know you don't know?

  • "Throwing Off Glass" by The Tragically Hip describes a character (implicitly the narrator's daughter) who has the tendency to overuse words she likes the sound of. In a twist on this trope, the narrator seems rather charmed by this habit, as the ambiguous wording of the lyric suggests that her love of new words adds some enchantment to the world.
    And just like after she heard the word "iridescent"
    And everything was iridescent for a while
  • The Mighty Sparrow's calypso classic "Well Spoken Moppers" is a satire of people who use long words incorrectly in an attempt to seem intelligent. He even throws in some neologisms of his own.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Wild Red Berry was basically a Wrestling Monster with no formal education who tried to obscure this fact by compulsively reading poetry and dictionaries in search of words he had not heard other people use. Fully grasping the context of those words wasn't the goal, so long as he made it clear he insulting the readers and his scheduled opponents in the ads he took out in newspapers.

  • The classic version of this trope is Amos And Andy in both radio and television shows of the 1940s and 1950s. The radio show had its black leads voiced by white actors (who also played the roles in blackface in a movie; the television show cast actual African-Americans) speaking fluent Shlubb and Klump. It fell out of favor when polite society discovered that many whites who watched the show thought that the "Negros" they met in real life were just as stupid and shiftless as these caricatures. Weirdly, even though Amos & Andy has been off the air for half a century, even as reruns, similar blackface characters keep turning up in home-grown musicals performed by all-white college fraternities.
  • Cabin Pressure: Arthur whenever he's in Steward Mode combines this and Department of Redundancy Department, often overdoing the simplest of announcements in an attempt to sound smart.
  • This was a particular specialty of Archie the Bartender, in the old '40s comedy Duffys Tavern.
  • Phil Harris did this all the time on The Phil Harris-Alice Faye Show.
  • The Bob & Ray character of Dr. Elmer Stapley, "The Word Wizard", was all about this trope.
  • In the Stanley Baxter Playhouse episode "Two Desperate Men", based on "The Ransom of Red Chief" by O. Henry, this is part of the characterisation of Hughie, the kidnapper played by Baxter, for example calling Glasgow "That great sprawling metamorphosis". This gets lampshaded by the kidnap victim:
    Logan: And Scout gets his words wrong because he's trying to sound clever.
    Hughie: That's ostentatious!

  • The theme of mooks talking over their heads was a mainstay of Damon Runyon's writings in the early 20th century and is the likely inspiration for most modern examples. Guys and Dolls, a musical and movie in the 1950s, is still being performed today, giving generations of American high school students a chance to channel their inner mook on stage.
  • Another '50s example is the musical and movie Kiss Me, Kate, the plot of which concerns a production of a musical version of William Shakespeare's The Taming of the Shrew. Two mooks show up at the theater to make sure the leading man pays his gambling debts. They get to strut their stuff in the classic comic song, "Brush Up Your Shakespeare."
    • The mooks can almost steal the show this way if they can play their respective mob stereotypes (the stocky, verbose fellow with an exaggerated accent, and the skinny old guy with the Marlon-Brando-impersonator's voice) completely and hilariously straight, even while singing.
  • Arnold, a mildly mentally-impaired man with various strange personality disorders in Tom Griffin's play The Boys Next Door is very talkative and thinks he's much more knowledgeable than he really is:
    Arnold: The [store] manager called me a fucking nut. So I called him a banana republic. Did I get even or what?!
  • Macheath in Brecht's The Threepenny Opera is sort of a cross between this and Know-Nothing Know-It-All, speaking in a much more genteel manner than his mooks, but prone to crude language when angry. In one scene, he lectures them on their ignorance and discusses Chippendale vs. Louis Quatorze furniture but doesn't actually know which piece of furniture is which.
  • Shakespeare liked to write buffoonish, lower-class characters who try to speak above their station and end up littering their speech with malapropisms, much to the confusion of many modern students.
    • Dogberry in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing is something of a cross between this and the Malaproper:
      Dogberry: Thou wilt be condemned into everlasting redemption for this.
    • Bottom from A Midsummer Night's Dream also makes a habit of this.
    • And Nurse from Romeo and Juliet. Even Benvolio lampshades it.
    • So do the gravediggers in Hamlet; Shakespeare seemed to like this trope for his comic-relief characters.
    • As well as Twelfth Night's Sir Andrew Aguecheek:
      Sir Toby: (upon seeing Maria) Accost, good knight, accost! (Meaning to woo.)
      Sir Andrew: Good Mistress Accost...
      Maria: My name is Mary, sir.
      Sir Andrew: Good Mistress Mary Accost...
    • In The Merchant of Venice, Launcelot Gobbo and his father Old Gobbo:
      Old Gobbo: He hath a great infection, as one would say, to serve.
    • Not a lower-class example, but from the pompous head courtier and king's counselor Polonius in Hamlet, whose every sentence is a either a pretentious but empty platitude or an equally empty tautology, such as
      Polonius: Mad call I it; for, to define true madness, What is't but to be nothing else but mad?
    • Osric, the foppish, social-climbing courtier in Hamlet also thinks he's a brilliant phrase-maker. He isn't.
  • A classic element of Minstrel Shows was the "stump speech," where a stereotypical black character (usually a white actor in blackface) would give a political address filled with high-flown malapropisms from beginning to end.
  • G(a)linda and Madame Morrible of Wicked are both prone to this. Specifically, they tend to tack extraneous or just plain wrong suffixes onto otherwise serviceable words. Since they typically do it when speaking to people of lower class than themselves, it's possible they know it's wrong but think their audience will be impressed anyway.
    • Actually, according to the companion book The Grimmerie, this is simply Ozian English, dialectically speaking.
  • In the Danish comedy play Erasmus Montanus, the village Know-Nothing Know-It-All speaks Schlubb And Klump Latin, with a good dose of Canis Latinicus mixed in with occasionally correct words. The main character (a pompous and over-educated Stranger in a Familiar Land come home to visit his parents) tries to call him on it, only to fail because the villagers don't speak a word of the language anyway and find the conman's gibberish more convincing.
  • In the Commedia dell'Arte, one of Dottore's standards was to misuse words, for example pluralizing things according to Latin or Greek rules; he was terrified of being mugged by "hoodla" (hoodlums).
  • In seminar, Douglas often comes off this way, especially in his opening speech.
  • Mrs. Malaprop in The Rivals was a famous example, and inspired the coining of the term "malapropism":
    Mrs. Malaprop: Then, sir, she should have a supercilious knowledge in accounts; and as she grew up, I would have her instructed in geometry, that she might know something of the contagious countries; but above all, Sir Anthony, she should be mistress of orthodoxy, that she might not mis-spell, and mis-pronounce words so shamefully as girls usually do; and likewise that she might reprehend the true meaning of what she is saying.

    Video Games 
  • Dragon Quest:
    • Dragon Quest V: Tuppence fancies himself a refined ladies man, but he cannot help misusing words every time he tries to woo a woman.
    • Dragon Quest VIII has Yangus, who while mostly being a lower-class Boisterous Bruiser, occasionally tries to mix in words of more than 2 syllables...and always, ALWAYS screws them up. How hard is it to say 'specific,' man?!
  • The character Redd White (Head of Bluecorp) in Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. His Verbal Tic is basically dropping big words whenever possible to make himself seem more sophisticated. More often than not, he uses them incorrectly and he even makes some up to sound fancy. Appropriately enough, he's the chapter's villain. (In the Japanese version, he uses Gratuitous English instead, but since he clearly thinks it makes him seem sophisticated, it still counts.)
    • Yumihiko Ichiyanagi/Sebastian Debeste in Ace Attorney Investigations 2 misuses words and phrases on a daily basis. Initially, it just makes him look like a Know-Nothing Know-It-All, but ultimately you learn that no one's ever really tried to teach him anything, due to pressure from his father to just give him a good grade and be done with it.
  • Abercrombie Fizzwidget from Ratchet & Clank: Going Commando. It turns out that he does this because he's actually dim-witted Captain Qwark in disguise. The real Fizzwidget speaks normally.
  • Lukan the Witless in Arcanum: Of Steamworks & Magick Obscura. He's convinced that "witless" is a synonym for "humorless." Appropriately, his and his henchmen's Beef Gate status can be circumvented with a single point in Persuasion.
    • "Who am I? Who am I? Lukan! Lukan the Witless! Where I go, the masses quabble in perturbisiveness and trepidunction!"
  • Lord Rugdumph gro-Shurgak in The Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion. He manages to work about three malapropisms into every sentence. He wishes you to exterminize some ogres, who have abjected his daughter. Should you do so, he will grant you a sword that has been passed in his family for many generators.
    • This sword has the effects of temporarily decreasing the victim's Speechcraft skill and applying a Silence effect, by the way.
  • Qui the Promoter from Jade Empire, an NPC at the Imperial Arena who tries to impress others by (ab)using big words. At one point, if you complain about this, he retorts with "Everything I say is perfectly cromulent, and it might do you well to embiggen your vocabulary before you fling accretions in my discretion."
  • Barnum from Fable II, who learned his "ridiculousitous" vocabulary from a dodgy thesaurus he purchased.
    • From a merchant in the beginning of the game who speaks in much the same manner.
  • Yoshimitsu's dialect is somewhere between this and Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe. Not that it stops him from being a badass.
  • In Pokémon XD: Gale of Darkness, one of the Cipher Mooks regularly spouts nonsense statistics. This often works on his companion, though he's left with a vague suspicion that he's being tricked.
  • The K'tang of Star Control 3 use words like Crushify and Destructimate rather often. They also react very badly if you point this out. Of course, they react badly no matter what you do. They really really like to crushify.
  • The manual for Bulletstorm describes the planet the game takes place on as "once-beatific." Beatific can literally mean "bestowing bliss" or "blissful", which is what they were likely shooting for... but it carries very strong connotations that this bliss is sacred or holy in nature, which makes the line all kinds of awkward. Considering the game's tone, this may have been intentional.
  • Donny, the sign-in guy from You Don't Know Jack 2011, especially when you ask him to explain the rules. Which means that any question written by him in the game proper is going to be... tricky.
    Donny: "Excuse me, were it possible in the mainframe for someone to bring forsooth in a reference booklet on animal husbandry, I would be greatly iniquinatednote ."
  • One of the Kirgard Commandos in Exit Fate is clearly trying for Talks Like a Simile. Instead, he constantly forgets where he's going with them, resulting in a bad case of this that usually confuses listeners into Visible Silence. He always assumes they're just crushed by his devastating insults.
  • After you beat up some common thugs in one part of Devil Survivor 2, Commander Hotsuin shows up and asks if it's fun playing with imbeciles. The beaten thug replies, "You're an umbilical!"
  • In The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II, Narses has these and uses "words" such as "impudential," "stylacefully" and "idiosynculiar."
  • Maliwan-made guns in Borderlands 2 are always titled like this. This, in addition to their looks and the fact that they shoot anything except bullets, reinforces the impression that Maliwan is ruled by a bunch of hipsters.

    Web Animation 

  • Dregs: Baron von Willendorfer never uses a two-syllable word where a five-syllable word could be used instead. He also thinks "misunderestimate" is a real word.
  • El Goonish Shive came close to delusory eloquence in its early days. The author himself admits that he actually spoke like that in those days. The scripting has undergone major improvements since.
  • In Homestuck, uu has a tendency to occasionally use phrases he doesn't actually understand in an attempt to make himself look more intimidating, such as here:
  • Marcus from 1/0 suffers from the tendency, but loses it after his Epiphany Therapy.
  • Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal: Invoked in-universe in the comic for 2011-07-03 together with Perfectly Cromulent Word, when a high school teacher sets up a fake thesaurus website to punish her students for thesaurus overuse. Unfortunately, they all start to speak in the language she accidentally invented, and it quickly goes downhill when prospective colleges begin "anti-yesing" their "applicatrices."
    Teacher: It was fake! Fake!
    Student 1: Whatly regards her speechitating?
    Student 2: I am lackrimonious as to that topicality.
  • In Book 2 of The Order of the Stick, Quirky Bard Elan decides to become a wizard. He does this by donning a wizard rope, wielding a staff with an 8-ball, and attempting to replicate the speech patterns of the party's wizard Vaarsuvius. This trope is what results.

    Web Original 
  • SCP -2557, a Holding of Envelope Logistics® features this testimonial from an extradimensional entity attempting to speak English:
    V❊H❊Q❊H: Commissional, the boozing speech nontronite navigates visions of verbarspermophyta. Dietine overlooker seining, waddywood breathes, full breaths, malacostracology evident. Trip hammer, trip hammer, trip hammer, trip hammer.
  • The Binder of Shame features Biff Bam, a guy with "a habit of randomly mispronouncing things in ways that made little or no sense at all". The resulting Funetik Aksent has the mispronunciations capitalised so they're not mistaken for typos.
    "I looked over your character sheets and everything is okay except for one thing. I asked everyone to make ACAMADEMIANS and one of you made a NIMJA."
  • Torq, the 3/4ths Orc from the Critical Hit Podcast often tries too hard when he tries to repeat things the smarter characters say.

    Western Animation 
  • Tiffany the goblin from Adventure Time is prone to making rambling, flowerly monologues full of convoluted metaphors that ultimately don't mean anything. "One Last Job" shows he even has to write them down so he doesn't forget the words.
  • Futurama
  • Bugs Bunny occasionally indulges in this "stragedy", particularly when confronted with a "huge Frankincense monster" that means to render him "non compus mentus".
    • As does Daffy Duck, when contemplating "self-preservatiomunum...munum".
      • THAT, sir, is an inmitigated frabrication!
  • Peter Griffin finds the use of this trope "both shallow and pedantic".
    • This holds for any word used that Peter doesn't understand, such as "esoteric".
      Peter: * after being told his theme choice was esoteric* Lois, Who's the Boss? is not a food.
      Brian: Swing and a miss.
    • Or...
      Rehab Director: You know this degenerate?
      Peter: A degenerate, am I? Well, you're a fastizio! (Beat) See? I can make up words too.
    • Also when he thought being chosen for jury duty made him part of the elite.
      Peter: I have been selected.
      Brian: For what?
      Peter: Oh, nothing too important, just jury duty! They have summoned me. I am part of an elite group of individuals deemed intelligent enough to decide the fate of a fellow citizen.
      [Meg laughs]
      Peter: Ah, the amused laughter of the envious.
  • The Opening Narration to DFE's Super President states that the hero can change his body into "whatever the need requires".
  • Octagon Vreedle (but not Rhomboid) of Ben 10: Alien Force.
  • Hey Arnold!:
    • Coach Wittenberg is made of this trope, such as the time he refers to synchronized swimming as "circumcised swimming".
    • Discussed in the episode "Mr. Green Runs", in which Mr. Green engages in a debate as part of the city council election, and tries to use big, complicated words to sound smarter and gain an advantage over his incumbent opponent. It doesn't work, with the audience only getting confused and angry. Arnold convinces him to instead use much more relatable vocabulary for the next question; he switches to using meat and butcher metaphors (as a butcher himself) that are much more effective at winning the audience's vote.
  • Although Early Cuyler from Squidbillies is not trying to sound intelligent, he mispronuncitates and adds sylabbizanation to almost every word over three syllables because he is a hillbilly stereoishtypery.
    Early: I have re-evalutated the saturation and I have convoluted that you ain't wild, you mild.
  • Blob from The Dreamstone has bouts of this, particularly when trying to sound authoritative.
  • Chicken from Cow and Chicken uses large words at times (largely incorrectly) to sound smarter than he really is. Thing of it is... it actually works, but only because the people with whom he lives and interacts are complete morons.
  • Pugsy from Fangface is an example of both this and Malaproper.
  • Stinks from Erky Perky tends to talk like this. Of course, no other character is actually smart enough to call him on it.
  • The "Ungroundable" episode of South Park had all the "cool" kids at school jumping on the Twilight bandwagon and pretending to be vampires. One of the "vampires" is a snobby preppy in a Classical Movie Vampire cape who repeatedly misuses the phrase "per se", just to sound important.
  • Shirong in Kung Fu Panda: Legends of Awesomeness is called out on this by his son Shifu:
    Shifu: Don't do that!
    Shirong: What?
    Shifu: Make up words! "Infantisular". "Fortisrumpionate". "Reveltrefication". Do you have any idea how confused I was as a child?
  • In the Ed, Edd n Eddy episode "Mirror, Mirror, On the Ed", Eddy indulges in this while doing an impression of Edd.
    Eddy: Oh, the insanitary! My skinny arms cannot bear the weight!
  • Angelica from Rugrats does this sometimes, more so than most of the other characters. They're all babies and toddlers, so using the wrong words is a common thing, but she is the only one who typically tries to brag and sound smarter than she actually is.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Shlubb And Klump English


FFVII Remake - Due Recompense

Thugs in back alleys shouldn't try to use big words like "compensatory" or "recompense."

How well does it match the trope?

4.85 (20 votes)

Example of:

Main / DelusionsOfEloquence

Media sources: