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Elective Unintelligible

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This character is The Unintelligible by choice, for many reasons, such as Obfuscating Stupidity. May require Translator Microbes or a Translator Buddy most of the time. When this character speaks comprehensibly, it usually means something important.

See also Completely Unnecessary Translator. Compare Elective Mute and Elective Broken Language.


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    Fan Works 
  • The Mountain and the Wolf: The Wolf is an omniglot, but is only understood when he wants to be, such as when he's talking to his crew when outsiders are nearby is a vaguely-Scandinavian language that doesn't get translated to the audience. Whenever he's speaking a fictional language but it's understandable by the audience (such as Nehekharan), there's a viewpoint character who hears it in their own language as well as the spoken language.

    Films — Live-Action 

    Live-Action TV 
  • Rebo and Zooty are a comedy duo from the fictional universe of Babylon 5. Zooty speaks through some kind of electronic device as part of the comedy. Rebo claims that in all their time together, Zooty has only ever said one thing to him out of character: "Why?" Before leaving the Station, Zooty tells President Sheridan, "Because it tells me to." Notable in that Rebo and Zooty were played, respectively, by the boisterous Penn and the silent Teller.
  • A famous sketch on The Benny Hill Show has Nicholas Parsons playing an interviewer talking to Hill, playing someone with a very heavy accent — e.g., Chinese, French, shanty Irish. Parsons has to keep asking the interviewee to repeat himself every other sentence because what he [Hill] says is incomprehensible, and frequently sounds off-color. In another sketch, Hill plays a fumbling Dutchman who uses his inability to speak the language to chat up an attractive woman he meets in the park. It turns out he's faking it and speaks perfect English.
  • Lost: Dogen, one of the Others, is perfectly fluent in English but prefers to speak in his native Japanese and have a colleague translate what he says. When asked why he doesn't just speak English he claims that he "doesn't like the way English tastes on my tongue".
  • The way Dave Chappelle portrays Lil' Jon in Chappelle's Show is like this. In each Li'l Jon skit, he only screams "OKAY!," "YEAH!," and "WHAT?!," and nothing else for a while, annoying everyone around him, then speaks full sentences in a calm and eloquent manner. He then goes back to his single-syllable bursts.
  • Donna Maria from Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt deliberately speaks only in Spanish in spite of being trapped in the bunker for fifteen years. Nonetheless, she understands English and actually learned how to speak English after two years in the bunker.

  • In Barry Louis Polisar's "I've Got a Teacher, She's so Mean", the protagonist deliberately speaks in gibberish whenever his teacher asks him a question.
    She always calls on me when I don't raise my hand,
    So I answer her in ways that she can't understand.
    She says, "What is the answer to number two?"
    I say, "Ock nock ditty wok, dickie pickie poo."

    • Turaga Nuju, who uses the bird language taught to him by Kualus so as to never forget Metru Nui's fall. He has Matoro as his Translator Buddy. This also serves as a Secret Test of Character: anyone who loses their patience waiting for Matoro to translate is clearly not worth speaking to in the first place.
    • The Vahki can actually speak the Matoran language, although too high-pitched for others to listen.

    Video Games 
  • In Friday Night Funkin', Word of God has stated that, while Boyfriend genuinely speaks in beeps and boops when having conversations with others, he's actually fully capable of speaking clear English if he wants to (as demonstrated in the Boyfriend Remix of "Fresh", sung by his "voice actor" Kawai Sprite). He just dislikes conversing with people most of the time, so he deliberately invokes being The Unintelligible.

    Web Animation 
  • The Cheat from Homestar Runner is implied to be this. He normally speaks in squeaky noises, but he's shown to make his own cartoons, and the voices are apparently done by him. The characters in his cartoons speak English, although badly acted and with a monotone.
    • It's unclear but the voices may actually be monotone as they're supposed to be text-to-speech programs since Powered by The Cheat cartoons were the Chapmans making fun of poorly done Flash animations.

    Web Comics 
  • Pete in Darths & Droids took "mute" as a disadvantage in order to improve his stats, and must talk in beeps when speaking in character. Fortunately, nobody ever speaks in character, so this isn't much of a downside.
  • The Order of the Stick has Blackwing, Vaarsuvius' raven familiar. Blackwing can speak Common, but considers it demeaning to speak anything but his native raven language. To Vaarsuvius, anyway. Later, once V thanks Blackwing for his noble efforts and starts treating him like a sentient being, Blackwing starts talking.
  • In Homestuck, Damara Megido can speak Alternian (somewhat broken, but perfectly intelligible), but prefers to speak solely in her native "Alterniasian" dialect (that is, badly Google-translated Japanese) because it allows her to constantly mock and deride her False Friends.
  • Comes up briefly in Paradigm Shift, when a middle-manager in the local Triads refuses so speak in any language but Cantonese while in police custody in an attempt to stall for time while his associates dispose of some evidence. Unluckily for him, one of the lead characters grew up in Hong Kong.
  • In Captain SNES: The Game Masta, upon being turned into a Chocobo, Bob pretends to only be able to speak like a Chocobo (saying variants of 'wark') because Alex started to catch on that there was more to Bob than his initial story would lead him to believe. When Alex finds out about the deception, Alex becomes enraged towards him, given the amount of manipulation Bob was pulling on him combined with the amount of danger he's been in due to Bob's withholding of critical information. Thanks to Cynicism's manipulations, Bob genuinely becomes The Unintelligible, due to Bob's transformation into Juan Valdez, who only speaks Spanish (which Alex doesn't understand).

    Western Animation 
  • Taz in Taz-Mania, though he usually spit-growls incoherently, can speak perfectly well if need be, or if it's funny. On one occasion, all he has to say is simply "Taz hate water", but he chooses instead to give a long-winded speech. It isn't received well.
  • Nibbler on Futurama can speak clearly (though it was initially said he communicated via Telepathy), but just makes strange, gibberish noises around most people to appear as just an animal.
  • Grubber, one of the Gangrene Gang on The Powerpuff Girls, often speaks merely via raspberry-ing, which no one outside the Gangrene Gang seems to be able to understand, but in the Gang's premiere episode, he speaks eloquently (in a Bad "Bad Acting" kind of way) in order to lure Blossom and Bubbles into a trap. In another episode, for show-and-tell at the Powerpuff's school, he stretches his body into a more normal shape, and greets the class with "Hello, I'm Grubber. Very nice to meet you all." Before changing instantly back into his usual shape. In the episode where the Gangrene Gang make crank calls, Grubber is able to imitate the voice and speech patterns of anyone he feels like.
  • In Hanna-Barbera's version of The Little Rascals, Porky does speak English, but only when he and Buckwheat are alone. For instance, this exchange from "Wash and Werewolf":
    Porky: Darla gonna be mad!
    Buckwheat: You took the words right out of my mouth.
  • In American Dad!, Toshi understands English perfectly fine, but refuses to speak anything other than Japanese out of nationalistic pride.
  • Donald Duck is a meta-example, at least when voiced by Tony Anselmo. Despite his famous speech impediment, you can normally make out what he says if you listen closely. The only time he's completely unintelligible is when it's part of the joke.


Video Example(s):


Substitute Teacher

It turns out that the mumbling substitute teacher was faking his unintelligible speech just to give everyone a day off.

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Main / ElectiveUnintelligible

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