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Gagging on Your Words

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When a character acts as if the words they are trying to say are so repugnant or alien to them, that they are almost physically incapable of saying them at least the first time around. This results in them biting out the words through gritted teeth or slurring and stuttering on the words a few times before finally saying it properly. Possibly followed by a command that they should enjoy hearing that because it's the last time they ever will.

Reasons for this may be a prideful or arrogant character finally breaks down to admit the hero did a good job. Or someone who never apologizes, finally does and the experience doesn't agree with them.

Related to Cannot Spit It Out, Angrish, and Emotionally Tongue-Tied. Often used in conjunction with Dumbass Has a Point and I Can't Believe I'm Saying This. May be a Funny Moment if the situation is really hammed up.


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  • An ad for Miller Lite has a man stumbling over the words "I Love You" to his girlfriend (after she said it to him) but has no trouble saying "I'd love one" to a waitress asking if he'd like another.

    Anime & Manga 
  • Kill la Kill: After being enemies for most of the show, Ryuko and Satsuki discover that they are sisters and form an alliance against their mother Ragyo. As they are about to enter battle together, Ryuko tries to call Satsuki "nee-san" (big sister) but can only bring herself to say, "N...n..." Satsuki says that Ryuko doesn't need to force herself to act like they are sisters, because their combined blood is flowing through Junketsu and that's enough.
  • Midori Days: Seiji is incapable of saying "I love you" to Midori, even as a throwaway and joking way.
  • One Piece: Sanji has no choice but to admit that his poorly-drawn Wanted poster is, in fact, him. This is such a monumental effort for him that it results in Blood from the Mouth before he can finally get the words out.

  • Richard Pryor once did a standup bit about a black activist who had great difficulty spitting out the word "white".

    Comic Books 
  • The Chronicles of Wormwood: No one can lie in Jay's presence, what with him being Jesus. When Danny has his girlfriend try to tell one, it comes out this way...
    My parents were elefffff— elephhhh— Why can't I say elephants?
... so that she'll know he really does love her.

    Comic Strips 
  • One strip of Sherman's Lagoon shows Megan is incapable of admitting her normally dull-witted husband was right.

    Films — Animation 
  • In The Chipmunk Adventure, Brittany can't bring herself to say she is wrong about the hurricane Simon warned her about and changes the subject instead.
  • In Incredibles 2, Bob Parr can barely get the words out when he tries to be supportive of Helen's new job. Helen actually notes how "painful" it is for him.
  • In Storks, Junior doesn't have the heart to fire Tulip after her Oblivious Guilt Slinging, despite his efforts, so he simply gives her a job somewhere where she won't be any trouble.

    Films — Live-Action 
  • Otto in A Fish Called Wanda has a big problem with apologizing.
    Otto: Oh, I'm so very, very, very ssssssssssssSUCK YOU!
  • In Demon Knight, when the Collector tries to tell Jeryline he loves her, he can't even finish the word. It's not the concept of love he has trouble with, as he very effectively manipulated Cordelia with that, but he comes off as unable to stomach actually saying it even as a lie.
  • Played for Drama in Harry Potter when Harry asks Hagrid about the person who gave him his scar.
    Harry: He killed my parents, didn't he? The one who gave me this. You know, Hagrid, I know you do.
    Hagrid: First, and understand this, Harry, 'cause it's very important. Not all wizards are good. Some of them go bad. A few years ago there was one wizard who went as bad as you can go. And his name was V—... his name was V—...
    Harry: Maybe if you wrote it down?
    Hagrid: No, I can't spell it. All right. His name was Voldemort.
    Harry: Voldemort?
    Hagrid: Shh!!
  • In Liar Liar, Jim Carrey's character is physically incapable of lying. Even in writing. This culminates in the scene where he tries and fails to say that a blue pen is, in fact, red.
  • Valentine in MirrorMask attempting to apologise to Helena: "If I were to say... s... s... so... something apologetic... it would reflect my feelings in this matter." (Valentine's inability to say, "I'm sorry," is something of a running joke in the film.) He does eventually manage to actually apologise when his life depends on it. The end credits theme about him is called "The Apology Song".
  • In Nanny McPhee, Colin Firth's character stumbles over "wife" and "fiancée" when referring to Selma Quickly.

  • A Christmas Carol: Scrooge meets two horrible, twisted children, Ignorance and Want:
    Having them shown to him in this way, he tried to say they were fine children, but the words choked themselves, rather than be parties to a lie of such enormous magnitude.
  • Dave Barry Slept Here:
    And thus it was that on election day, October 8, 1968, the voters went to the polls and elected, as leader of the greatest nation that the world has ever seen, President Richard Milhous N...
    President Richard M...
    President R...
    Please don't make us do this.
  • Lucky Starr and the Oceans of Venus: Bigman, with great reluctance, admits he isn't very tall.
    "[The air ducts are] not as big as all that," said Dr. Morriss.
    Bigman swallowed painfully. It cost him a great deal to make the next statement. "I'm not as big as all that, either. Maybe I'll fit."

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cheers:
    • At the end of season 2, Carla's dislike for Diane reaches such levels she has severe difficulty saying "thank you". When she does, she tries to slam her tongue in the bar's door.
    • After their hideously vicious break-up, and a few months spent in a "health spa", Diane cannot say "Sam". Which makes their reunion in Cheers awkward, as she can only manage "Ss-ssssssssssss..."
  • Stephen Colbert from the spin-off The Colbert Report, has also done this a few times. He once gagged on thinking about saying "Speaker Pelosi".
  • The Daily Show with Jon Stewart: Jon Stewart does this, a recent example was when he said he... gag... liked Bill O'Reilly. Often involves faking that you just threw up in your mouth.
  • Maddie of Every Witch Way once had physical difficulty asking Emma for help. (She managed, but the "Emma" in question turned out to be an Evil Clone. The results weren't pretty.)
  • On Family Ties, Steven suffers from this:
    Steven: Elyse, my vocabulary develops very slowly. It took three years for me to say "President N-N-Nixon."
  • In Frasier's Cheers reunion show, Carla is trying to say something nice at Cliff's leaving party (since she's afraid if he doesn't think people will miss him, he might not go):
    Carla: I'd like to say that I'll miss you... but it sticks in my throat like your rotten devilled eggs!
  • Happy Days: Fonzie is physically incapable of saying he is wrong.
    Fonzie: I was wr... I was wrrr... I was wrrrr... What I'm trying to say is that I wasn't exactly right.
  • House: Used sarcastically by House when he tries to say he was wrrr... wrnnnn... wronnnn... rng...
  • In the Parks and Recreation episode "Pawnee Commons", Leslie has trouble saying sorry to a park designer from Eagleton, a town towards which she has a deep animosity.
  • In an episode of Quantum Leap, Sam leaps into a Ku Klux Klan member. As he can't stand racism, he exemplifies this trope every time he has to say the n-word.
  • Red Dwarf:
    • Lister's attempts to teach Kryten to lie and insult people end up like this.
      Lister: (holding up a banana) What is it?
      Kryten: It's an orrr... it's an orrr...
      Lister: It's an orange! Come on, say it! This. Is. An orange!
    • And again, Lister trying to teach Kryten to insult Rimmer.
      Lister: How do you describe the gentleman who's just been on the screen?
      Kryten: He's mister... He's a Smeeee. He's a Smeeeee. He's a Smeeeeg Heeeead! I did it!
    • Then got brought back as a Brick Joke later that episode when Kryten disobeys orders from Rimmer to stage a rescue mission.
      Rimmer: I was glad to get rid of him; he's flipped! He's got mad droid disease; he kept waving a banana in front of me and saying it was a female aardvark!
  • An episode of Saturday Night Live back during Bush's presidency (the first one) had Dana Carvey's version struggling to say that he was going to have to raise taxes.
  • Scrubs:
    • Happens hilariously when Cynical Mentor Dr.Cox finally tells J.D. that he's a good doctor. He looks like he is going to throw up.
    • The season 8 finale (originally intended to be the series finale) has Doctor Cox admit that JD is a better doctor than most doctors he's ever met, without stumbling and with lots of conviction. When he finds out that JD was actually listening when he said it, he looks like he's going to be sick.
  • Wizards of Waverly Place: In one episode, Alex and Justin form a band, and when they decide to get it back together after an argument, Alex decides she has to compromise and let him "n-n-n-name the band."

  • Played for horror in a two-part episode of The Magnus Archives. Edwin Burroughs, a fallen Catholic priest, claims in his statement that he has been possessed by a demon (well, he's half right) that torments him in various ways. The most outwardly obvious sign is that it doesn't let him pray, or say Jesus's name, and he has to struggle quite hard to choke out God just once.


    Video Games 
  • In Halo 2, the Gravemind makes a loud shuddering noise after saying the word "containment." Considering that he and the rest of the Flood have been under quarantine for eons, it's clearly not a happy noise.
  • In the Smuggler storyline of Star Wars: The Old Republic, one of the dialogue options is to react this way when a crimelord named Rogun the Butcher demands that they pay and apologize for losing a weapons shipment at the beginning of the game. Given that this is the Smuggler, that said loss was due to circumstances entirely beyond their control, and that Rogun has been trying to kill them for most of the game, this is certainly deliberate.
    Smuggler: I'm s... I'm sor... I am... incredibly good looking! Nope. Can't.

    Web Animation 
  • In episode 3 of the Red vs. Blue mini-series "Where There is a Will, There is a Wall", Church and Tucker compete to get Caboose to come towards them to win a contest between themselves and when Church tries to call Caboose his best friend, he chokes on the words and chooses to forfeit.
  • Supermarioglitchy4's Super Mario 64 Bloopers: In Mario and the Diss Track, Saiko has incredible difficulty admitting that Boopkins is her friend, to the extent when she tries to do so, Mario asks if she's having a stroke.
  • One episode of Zero Punctuation had Yatzee chokingly force the word "cinematic", and it was depicted as written in entrails when he finally got it out.

  • In Homestuck, Caliborn claims that positive relationships are so foreign to his species that he can't talk about them without involuntarily flailing. However, it's entirely possible that Caliborn is just saying that to screw with Jane.
  • In Moon Over June; after, it must be noted, Hatsuki provides an engagement ring, a tearful apology for not intervening in Summer's months-long downward emotional spiral, an oath to not only be there for her for the long term but to let the world know it, she hits a snag:
    Hatsuki: I want to be with you for the rest of my life. Summer, I lo—
    Summer: ... You what?
    Hatsuki: Sorry, my throat's just a—a bit dry. Bad timing. But Summer, I lo— I luh—
    Summer: You can't say it.
    Hatsuki: YES I CAN! I LUH— LUU— DAMMIT!!
    Summer: [lunging into an embrace] I luh you too, Suki!
  • Penny Arcade:
  • Questionable Content, shortly after they started dating:
    Angus: Say I'm your boyfriend.
    Faye: Fine. You're my boafregh. My boyfremb [...] borthrelm [...] boyfling dammit I'm sorry!

    Web Videos 
  • Dragon Ball Z Abridged, Episode 19:
    Vegeta: Every fiber of my being wants to puke at once when I say this, but I need your hehh... I need your heehhHhH...
    Gohan: You need our help?
    Vegeta: That, yes.
  • Pokemon Pals: When Brock has to tell Ash " I believe in you."
  • Yu-Gi-Oh Abridged: In episode 55 when Seto has to express his love towards his sibling.

    Western Animation 
  • In one episode of The 7D, Lord Starchbottom has to call on the 7D for help by ringing the Bing Bong Bell, but he is so loathe to do it that he can hardly get the name out.
  • The Amazing World of Gumball:
    • In "The Fuss," Nicole believes that Richard forgot their anniversary, but it turns out that she got the date wrong because her calendar was upside down and she thought it was November 1 when it was actually October 11. Even then, Nicole is, in Anais' words, "pathologically incapable" of admitting she was wrong.
    • When Richard gets a job in "The Job", Nicole literally is unable state she's proud of her husband, since she has never said it before. She eventually decides that she's "prood" of Richard.
    • In “The Faith” Gumball is incapable of calling Alan a friend and when he tries he acts like he’ll barf.
  • Bob's Burgers:
    • In "Purple Rain-union", Linda's old high school band, the Ta-Tas, is asked to perform at her high school class's 25th reunion. Then she learns that she was the last pick after Bad Hair Day, the band that the Ta-Tas were forced to follow after a show-stealing performance in the school talent show, turned them down. Being reminded of this humiliation enrages Linda, and she spends much of the rest of the episode unable to even say the phrase "Bad Hair Day".
    • At the start of "Eat, Spray, Linda", Birthday Hater Linda struggles to say the word "birthday" after getting up in the morning.
  • In Dan Vs. "The Dentist", it takes Dan great effort (he actually starts sweating from the strain) to say "Thank you," to Elise. He has a much easier time in "Ye Olde Shakespeare Theatre."
  • The Grim Adventures of Billy & Mandy: As revealed in "Sickly Sweet," Mandy is such a Jerkass that she can barely say "please."
  • Family Guy has a Shout-Out to Happy Days, when Peter establishes the church of the Fonz. Brian tells him that what he is doing is wrong and after stumbling on the word, Peter explains he can't say it because everything is right when you worship the Fonz.
  • The fourth season finale of Metalocalypse involves the band about to split up due to a conflict between Nathan and Pickles. Pickles says he'll stay, but only if Nathan apologizes to him, which he believes he's incapable of doing. When Nathan gives a eulogy for the man in charge of their record label, he manages to do it. It ends up being perhaps the most painful looking apology you're ever likely to see. It makes him vomit blood.
  • My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic:
    • Near the end of the episode "Dungeons & Discords", Discord struggles to spit out an apology to Spike and Big Macintosh for making fun of them and dragging down their "guys' night" of playing Ogres & Oubliettes.
    • "To Where and Back Again – Part 1": When Starlight asks Trixie to repeat what she'd earlier told her to not repeat to anypony, to make sure she's not a changeling, Trixie's answer first come out as unintelligible mumbling between clenched teeth. Only on Starlight's insistence does she finally admit it was "That even Trixie's made mistakes!"
  • Pinky and the Brain: At one point, Brain asks Pinky how the former can be more like the latter, noting "...the words are hot in my throat..."
  • Buttercup of The Powerpuff Girls has this problem sometimes when she has to apologize.
  • Another reference appeared in Robot Chicken's "The Pursuit of Happy Days".
    Chachi: Did mom leave because of me?
    Fonz: Look Chachi, I don't really know who your mom is. But by leaving you she was wr-wr-wr.... She was wr-wr-wr... She was a bitch!
  • In the Sofia the First episode "The Little Witch", Lucinda, the eponymous witch, decides to change her ways, and Sofia suggests she start by apologizing to all of the people she hexed. She practices saying "sorry," but only succeeds in making her hat spark. Fortunately, she gets the word out in front of actual people. She's very impressed with herself when she manages to say it a second time.
  • In the SpongeBob SquarePants episode "Fools in April", Squidward has a hard time saying "I'm sorry" to SpongeBob after pulling a prank that goes too far and traumatizes him. So hard, in fact, that at one point his head explodes.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Gagging On The Words


What Would Plato Do?

Otto just beat up the one man they need to make their plan work, so what does he need to do?

How well does it match the trope?

5 (4 votes)

Example of:

Main / GaggingOnYourWords

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