Maya: I know! I know! Try "thank you."
A character who doesn't know how to show their appreciation for something. Perhaps they have No Social Skills, or maybe their lives were so messed up that they simply don't know how thank someone because they never before experienced kindness or helpfulness from other people. Or the favor in question was so great that a mere "Thank you" doesn't seem sufficient. Characters like this may give Disproportionate Rewards of some sort. Alternatively, they may do something they think would be an appropriate way to show their gratitude, only to shock or anger the person they were trying to thank instead.
Related to Cannot Spit It Out.
See also: Poisonous Friend and Rhetorical Request Blunder for other failed attempts at pleasing someone. See also Entitled Bastard for someone who rudely decides not to thank anyone. When it's a person suffering lack of gratitude, it's All of the Other Reindeer.
- Gretel, one of a pair of truly Creepy Twins from Black Lagoon, does this to Rock when she tries to express her gratitude for being the first person who was nice to her and shedding tears for her because of the horrible things that she and her brother had been put through and how they chose to handle it, something that had been completely alien to her until then... by dropping her panties and sexually proposing to him. Rock is shocked and horrified and immediately leaves the room to go upstairs, where he proceeds to curse the men who caused her and her brother Hansel to become like this. Also a example of Evil Cannot Comprehend Good played for drama.
- Nymph from Heaven's Lost Property doesn't ever say thanks for anyhing, because her master used to force her to act grateful while he treated her like crap, so she can't understand the honest meaning of the expression.
- Princess Arika from Mahou Sensei Negima! is normally calm and composed, including at her own execution. When Nagi saves her life and professes his love for her, her first response is, "I do not dislike you."
- It's shown in an extra that Morgiana from Magi: The Labyrinth of Magic, after a wonderful life of enslavement, is troubled as she doesn't know how to express her gratitude to Alibaba for freeing her.
- My Hero Academia: Bakugou has this problem in spades, namely because he's a very prideful individual who gets aggressive whenever he even thinks someone might be looking down on him. Most notably his former best friend and the protagonist, Izuku Midoriya. He pretty much starts screaming at him after Izuku leads some classmates to save his life; he is actually grateful, but too proud to admit it.
- He also gives Kirishima money to replace what he spent on night-vision goggles that he used to rescue Bakugo. Kirishima is one of the very few Bakugou acts less hostilely towards, namely because of his niceness and easy-going nature.
- It appears that while Bakugou has trouble in general, it's implied it's even more so toward Izuku because he looks down on him. Though Uraraka points out he may actually fear Izuku or rather that he actually believes Izuku is more worthy of being a hero than him. This may explain why he has such a hard time with gratitude towar Izuku.
- Asti from then hentai OVA F-Force "comforts" Ash shortly before they set off on their last battle.
- Haruhi Suzumiya:
- Haruhi doesn't know how to apologize or thank anyone. However, at one point, Kyon tells her that her the one time he saw her in a ponytail it was "so cute it was criminal," and from then on whenever she really screws up, she puts her hair in a ponytail in the next scene, since it's the only way she can apologize.
- She doesn't know how to accept gratitude either. After the concert in "Live A Live", she is thanked quite nicely by the band she helped out, and, though she handles it well in person, later feels disturbed and antsy for no reason she can think of. Kyon believes it's because the antics she usually gets up to are not the sort of things people would thank her for.
- It seems like Bando from Elfen Lied can only show his gratitude by offering to kill a person of the recipient's choice, should they ever need it. As a matter of principle, he refuses to be indebted to anyone, but does not know how to handle such things because he a Professional Killer to the bone.
- Rebuild of Evangelion has a variation of this in Rei, who in the second movie reveals that she had never thanked anyone. At least, until she thanks Shinji.
- One thing that Ledo faces in Gargantia on the Verdurous Planet is this. In his case, he's been raised in a pure military environment and doesn't really understand the concept of "gratitude": he understands exchange of services, but not the idea of simply being thankful for another's efforts. He seems to catch on fairly quickly, and the first word he says in the Earthlings' language is a somewhat garbled "thank you".
- King Farraday in The DCU. When Batman receives a telegram from Farraday thanking him for his assistance on the Two-Face case, Robin complains about his ingratitude, as Batman had done most of the work. Batman just remarks that a 'thank you' from Farraday is the equivalent of a massive compliment from anyone else.
- The Millennium Trilogy: Lisbeth Salander has this problem. Understandable, as she has massive trust issues and doesn't know how to be friends.
- Dudley Dursley in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.
- The Dothraki in A Song of Ice and Fire literally have no word for "thank you."
- October Daye: Fae do not offer thanks as it implies they owe a debt. Lords can thank their underlings though without fear, but it's somewhat rude and a bad habit to get into - a habit most changeling children need to be trained out of. Usually they use the term "appreciate" to express gratitude.
- Star Trek: The Original Series: Mr. Spock.
- Sherlock is so flustered when John, strapped to a bomb, grabs Moriarty and tells Sherlock to run, basically proving himself willing to die for Sherlock that he can only stammer "That, uh, thing that you did — that you were prepared to do — that was... um... good." While carelessly waving a handgun around.
- In The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon, when he receives Leonard Nimoy's napkin from Penny as a Christmas present.
- Supergirl (2015): Snapper Carr, editor-in-chief of CatCo magazine, is too surly to thank Supergirl when she saves him from someone who was trying to kill a witness he wanted to interview. Supergirl then uses her civilian identity to needle him about it a little.
Kara: So I heard Supergirl saved you.
Snapper: ...Yeah, she was there.
Kara: Did you say "thank you?"
Snapper: Once. To a divorce lawyer. It was awkward for everyone.
- Jack from Mass Effect 2 has a lot of trouble coming up with a simple thanks for Shepard after her Loyalty Mission, because basically, Shepard is the first person in her life who did something good for her that she didn't have to extort by force (technically the second, but the first one died while doing it). She does get better at it later, though.
- Dragon Age:
"I must seem ungrateful. I assure you that could not be further from the truth."
- The golem Shale from Dragon Age: Origins. Shale has effectively been a slave for as long as memory serves (apart from those twenty years Taken for Granite). The warden can be the first person to selflessly help the golem with anything, which makes Shale attempt to say thanks in the late game (as well as attempting to address the warden with 'you').
- Sten: after you return his sword to him he admits that he doesn't how how to thank you, then immediately says that he wants to stay with your group (this may just have had to do with the gravity of the favor you did for him, though.)
- In Dragon Age II, Fenris often answers Hawke's help with complaining, brooding, or insults and accusations. He Lamp Shades this after your first quest with him:
- In Final Fantasy Tactics A2, one mission to unlock the Dragoon job for your clan's Bangaa units involves protecting a Dragoon named Kyrra who's getting flack for it from some bullies. After your clan defeats the bullies, he chews you out for helping him, saying that he could've taken care of the bullies himself. When called out on his ungrateful attitude, he apologizes and offers to teach your Bangaa units how to be Dragoons as his way of saying thanks.
Clan member: We protected you, and you can't even say thank you?!
Kyrra: Ah... I was never good with gratitude meself.
- Played for Laughs in Chrono Cross with Starky, an alien. When attempting to express his gratitude, he uses the phrase "You're welcome." The person he is speaking to complements his attempted courtesy, and gives him the correct phrase to use instead. A text box then pops up and says "Starky learned 'Thank You,'" as though it was an actual in-game ability.
- Miles Edgeworth, from Ace Attorney has this problem at least in the first game. By speaking out of turn and getting herself arrested for contempt of court, Maya Fey keeps the trial going when otherwise Edgeworth would have been found guilty of a murder he didn't commit. During the recess, Edgeworth can't figure out how to express his gratitude, and he eventually asks Pheonix to relay a message to her: "Tell her something for me. Tell... Tell her to watch what she says in court.) He also thanks her by paying her bail to get her released from lockup. Not to mention, at the end of that case, he stutters and becomes nervous about thanking Pheonix, before finally being able to give a clear "thank you" for defending him.
- Ishida Mitsunari from Sengoku Basara, due to mental instability, sullenness, an extremely messed-up life and complete lack of social graces. Magoichi's blue path, in which the Saika mercenaries work for him, exemplifies this: Mitsunari spends the entire campaign threatening Magoichi with horrible horrible death should she even think of betraying him. It turns out that Mitsunari values the Saika as employees, but has no real idea how to do that whole "positive reinforcement" thing, and simply defaults to threats and generally acting jealous so that they stay with him. When Magoichi notes that one of his comments is practically a compliment, Mitsunari gets annoyed, but admits that it was.
- Schlock Mercenary: Variant. Kevyn isn't sure how to apologize, so he goes to the Reverend for advice.
Kevyn: Reverend, what's the best way to apologize to someone?
Reverend Theo: Look them in the eye and tell them that you're sorry. The exact wording will vary depending upon how you've wronged them, and whether they already know they've been wronged by you.
Kevyn: I need to apologize to Elf for making her feel stupid.
Reverend Theo: Shout the apology at a dead run, and retreat under covering fire provided by troops loyal only to you.
Kevyn: "Exact wording will vary." Got it.
- Beetlejuice has a hard time with any sort of social nicety, including but by no means limited to saying thank you.
- Justice League Unlimited:
- Batman states one of the very few things he is not good at, is saying thank you. But immediately afterwards thanks Zatanna for her help in saving Wonder Woman.
- There was a previous instance in Justice League where Hawkgirl expected him to thank her after she rescued him and he replied that it's a thing he's simply not used to.
- Squidward from Spongebob Squarepants can't say thanks or sorry.
- Played with in Steven Universe: Peridot's social ineptitude leads to Steven explaining, among other things, that friends exchange gifts and thank each other for them. She gets the general idea of expressing gratitude well enough, but treats Steven's exact wording ("Wow, thanks.") as the only way to do so verbally, regardless of the situation.