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Intelligible Unintelligible

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Groot: I am Groot.
Thor: Tree, pour what's in the cup out into space, and go in the cup again.
Rocket: You speak Groot?
Thor: Yes, they taught it on Asgard. It was an elective.

A character talks in some sort of Simlish, because they are The Unintelligible or a Heroic Mime, but at least one of the other characters has no trouble understanding them. Comedy is often derived from this when the characters get something complex, eloquent or otherwise plain long from a short phrase like "ook".

Fiction may exaggerate, but this trope is not unheard of in real life. People with speech impediments or thick foreign accents tend to be easier to understand by family and longtime friends, leading to conversations that can certainly appear as this trope to onlookers.note  Similarly, babies who are learning to talk will often be understood by their families much more easily than by adults who haven't been around toddlers anytime lately.

This can be a means of Informed Obscenity, when the characters who understand the Intelligible Unintelligible react to the shocking or offensive thing they said in a way that makes it clear more or less what it was, but without the audience having actually heard it. Often results in Repeating So the Audience Can Hear. A subtrope of Bilingual Dialogue. The character who understands them might act as a Translator Buddy.

If people can understand them even though they're not saying anything, you have a Silent Bob.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Classi9, Schumann is either a Silent Bob or speaks too softly for most people to understand what he says. His classmates and the Chopin-Liszt duo, who are used to him, understand him perfectly well, and it is possible Tchaikovsky is learning too. Liszt plays the Translator Buddy and also does the Repeating So the Audience Can Hear in chapters 16 and 23.
  • MarineAngemon in Digimon Tamers has a rather unique way of speaking in the Japanese version. His Tamer Kenta manages to know what he's saying perfectly.
  • Doraemon: Nobita and The Space Heroes have Ogun, a Chewbacca expy who speaks with moans and roars, but his colleagues (who speaks normally) have no problem understanding him.
  • Daikichi Komusubi from Eyeshield 21 communicates in a language made up of grunts and one-word sentences known as "powerspeak", which can only be understood by strong men like Kurita, Gao, or Mizumachi (and, for some reason, Mamori).
  • In HeartCatch Pretty Cure!, Snackies communicate entirely in monkey-like "kii!" utterances. Nevertheless, the antagonists can understand exactly what they're saying.
  • Deconstructed in the KanColle doujinshi "The Sixth Destroyer Division Will Be Best Friends Forever". It starts with Hibiki returning from Russia, having finished her remodelling into Verniy. However, as a side effect, she can now only speak Russian. The rest of the 6th Destroyer Div. can still seemingly understand her due to their friendship. And in the end, Verniy is seemingly at peace, surrounded by her friends. Then came The Reveal: the rest of the 6th Destroyer Fleet completely misunderstood pretty much everything Verniy said. She actually hates the green tea she's been given, and has no idea who's this "Hibiki" that they keep talking about, because she was strapped to a mind-wiping machine as part of her remodelling process, which erased her entire personality.
  • Tama-chan the Hot Springs Turtle seems to be understood by Mutsumi in Love Hina, despite only ever saying "myuh".
  • The strange animals on Nagasarete Airantou start this way to Ikuto. Everyone understands their nonsense but him until after he spends an episode trying to look for Kuma-Kuma. Seems that after that they can be heard speaking Japanese. Apparently he 'got used to life on the island'.
  • In chapter 14 of Ojojojo, Haru has a brief conversation with Tsurezure, who replies to all of her brief word fragments with "Mm". They understand each other completely, to Akane's disbelief.
    Akane: Mm? And they understand each other? For Real?
  • Pokémon: The Series:
    • Ash Ketchum has a knack for deciphering his Pikachu's dialog even though Pikachu can only say his own name.
    • This seems to be true of most trainers, since they're always around their Pokémon and learn to understand them.
    • Pikachu does have a number of recurring phrases.
  • In Soul Eater, Enrique can only communicate by saying 'gau'. However, his accomplice has no trouble understanding him... In fact, the first thing he does in his big reveal is say a dirty joke that neither the reader nor the other characters understand.

    Comic Books 
  • In The Bojeffries Saga, Uncle Festus' dialogue is mostly rendered in pseudo-Cyrillic gibberish-font. The other characters, however, can all understand him.
  • Played with in an issue of Guardians of the Galaxy, where Maximus of the Inhumans can apparently discuss complex scientific concepts with Groot, despite the fact all Groot is saying is "I am Groot!" Of course, since his full name is Maximus the Mad...
    • Justified by Groot being incredibly intelligent - his lack of verbosity is due to his advanced age - and Maximus being a powerful psychic, as well as crazy.
  • In the League of Extraordinary Gentlemen, Golliwog verges on this if the reader doesn't apply enough fuzzy logic to him; he's speaking English, sort of, but using incredibly bizarre word choices to do it.
  • Arseface from Preacher who due to massive facial trauma cuh uhluh tuh luh thuh (can only talk like this). Most characters can understand him, however.
    • So can the reader, if they sound it out.
  • Prospero in PS238 talks in strings of weird alien symbols. This is incomprehensible to all the cast except, for some reason, Angie. Unfortunately, because Angie talks entirely in New York slang, she's also incomprehensible to most of the cast...
  • Mazikeen in The Sandman (1989) and Lucifer is missing half her face, making her vocalizations barely intelligible to the reader, but the other characters can understand her just fine. In Lucifer her face was eventually turned normal, so that she could experience proper character development without annoying the hell out of readers trying to interpret her speech bubbles.
  • Doop from X-Force borders on this. As a general rule his speech is rendered in bizarre hieroglyphics and the other characters don't have a literal, word-for-word understanding of what he says. They do, however, tend to get the gist of what he means.

    Comic Strips 
  • Baby Angus in Daddy Daze communicates solely by going "ba ba ba." His parents still understand him perfectly.

    Fan Works 
  • Wild Child Ryuuko from Cellar Secrets plays with this, as she can talk and is mostly this when she communicates with gestures, the which few people besides her sisters and would translate/interpret for her in any situation where no one else can understand, as was pointed out in chapter 26, where Nui says, vehemently, "I'm not translating any of that!" in response to Ryuuko's gestures towards Nonon.
  • In Fates Collide, Frankenstein only speaks in grunts and growls. A few characters like Nora Valkyrie, Henry Jekyll, and her father James Moriarty can understand her.
  • Reimu and Youmu from the latter parts of the Gensokyo 20XX series (and, a branch off, Foundling), though the latter is especially this, considering that most of what she says is "Muh" and whatever variant comes from that, the which other kids can understand. An example of this would be, in one chapter of 20XXV, that she exclaimed "Muh!" and an equally toddler-aged Sanae said, agreeing, "What Youmuh said!".
  • Hugh from The Night Unfurls is mute, yet Sanakan, his partner in crime, can somehow read his mind.
  • In Thomas Abridged, Bert can only communicate by grunting. For some reason, 'Arry can understand him completely.
  • While in Control Jesse only ever gets the gist of what Polaris tries relaying to her, in Ordinary Girl Jesse seems to understand Polaris as though they were having an active conversation.

    Film — Animated 
  • Aladdin: Aladdin, and sometimes the viewer, can understand Abu the monkey, even though he talks in gibberish. (The most intelligible of Abu's phrases is "Aladdin, wake up!")
    • In the sequels and TV series, Iago can understand Abu as well.
      Abu: [Angry chattering]
      Iago: Hey, do I insult your mother?
  • Brave has Wee MacGuffin, who speaks in an unintelligible manner, but his father appears to have no problem understanding him. (As can anyone in the audience familiar with the thicker of the Scottish accents.)note 
  • Despicable Me: Gru happens to understand (and even speak) minionese, but it is unknown if anyone else can.
  • Fish Out of Water in Chicken Little. Double Subverted with Kirby the alien kid, who can only be understood by Fish and the alien mother.
  • Lilo & Stitch: Stitch can persuade someone to let them go, and help Stitch save his 'ohana with a simple "Ih." Later on, it turns out that "ih" just means yes, which makes sense given that it was in response to "After all you put me through, you really expect me to help you, just like that?!"
  • Mulan: Cri-Kee communicates in cheeps that Mushu, and no one else, can understand. Mushu can also translate for Khan, Mulan's family horse.
  • In Peter Pan, Tinkerbell's speech sounds like jingling bells and wind chimes, but Peter Pan and the Lost Boys understand what she is saying, while others such as Wendy and Captain Hook rely on her emotions and pantomiming.
  • In Rapsittie Street Kids: Believe in Santa, great-grandma is speaking in riddles. Whether this is because a hard drive got corrupted or something is yet to be seen. Her great-grandson understands her somehow.
  • In the Shrek movies, Dragon can only speak in facial expressions and roars. Donkey seems to understand what each roar means, however.
  • In Wreck-It Ralph, Q*bert only speaks in what's referred to as "Q*Bertese", and Fix-It Felix has to act as an interpreter.

    Film — Live-Action 
  • Bubo, the mechanical owl from the 1981 version of Clash of the Titans. What sounded like clicks and whistles to everyone else was perfectly understandable by Perseus. Justified by the fact that it was a gift from the goddess Athena.
  • Hot Fuzz features an elderly cop whose thick rural Gloucestershire mumbling is intelligible to everybody in the Sandford Police Service except Angel (justified since Angel is the only one who wasn't raised in that particular village), and later facilitates a three-way translation of another old man with an even thicker accent who not even Danny can understand. The Gloucestershire accent is so notoriously thick that even the BBC subtitle the worst cases of it. Like most things in this film, the three-way translation (city cop <-> local cop <-> local farmer) is based on a true story that Nick Frost and Simon Pegg collected when preparing for the film.
  • Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Groot's vocabulary in Guardians of the Galaxy (2014) is composed almost entirely of "I", "am", and "Groot" (always said in that order). Rocket Raccoon has no trouble understanding what he's saying.
    • Come Avengers: Infinity War (and Groot's adolescence), the rest of the Guardians have been around him long enough to discern what he says. Thor can also understand what Groot says; he claims he took Groot's language as an elective when he was in school, although Word of God insists that was a joke.
    • Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 3: The time-shifted Gamora can't understand Groot, and complains that it seems like everyone else is just making up what he says. She gains the ability to understand him at the very end. And so does the audience.
  • Personal Property: Arthur Trevelyan, one of the guests at Crystal's party, "speaks" in a series of unintelligible gibberish throat noises. Raymond is startled by this and even more stunned when everyone else at the party can understand everything Arthur says.
    Arthur: unintelligible throat noises
    Claude: I think so too, provided you buy it in bulk.
  • The reindeer in the The Santa Clause-trilogy communicate in a gibberish kind of language, but Scott/Santa and his elves are able to completly undertand them.
  • Star Wars:
    • R2-D2 communicates entirely in bleeps. C-3PO is normally the one to translate (or otherwise reveal) what he is saying for the benefit of the audience, although Luke is shown using a monitor in his X-Wing to translate for him in The Empire Strikes Back. In the prequel trilogy, Anakin is able to understand him.
    • Chewbacca as well, only Han, C-3PO, Obi-Wan, and maybe Lando are able to understand him.
    • The various alien anatomies would make it impossible for everyone to be able to speak one standard language, but understanding other languages is fairly easy — Chewbacca understands Basic but can't speak it, while Han understands Shyriiwook but can't speak it (without sounding like an idiot at least). Anyone wanting to get by as a trader, merc or other interplanetary profession would need to learn at least a half-dozen common languages. Protocol droids like C-3PO provide special services as they can both understand and synthetically speak several thousand languages. Also, R2-D2's bleeping is a language of its own, which service droids use and people can learn to understand.
    • Continuing the tradition of beeping astromechs is BB-8 from The Force Awakens. Rey and Poe have no problem understanding him.
  • Leatherface from Texas Chain Saw Massacre communicates with his family through high-pitched gibberish, barnyard animal noises, and hand gestures. At one point the subtitles read [Leatherface explaining].

  • The Curse of M has a downplayed example in the form of Lorna Donovan, whose Dublin accent is so heavy that more than one person who meets her in the USA asks if she speaks English. Only two people can easily understand her, and one of them can her mind.
  • Discworld:
    • Also known as "The Librarian-speak Conundrum" after the Librarian, who communicates only with "ook", but seems to able to be understood with perfect clarity by many (but not all) characters, although a period of exposure to his unique speaking patterns seems to be required.
    • The Librarian also occasionally says "eek", which is usually either an expression of displeasure (or some other negative emotion, such as anger or shock) or a "no", although the exact content of the statement can include a great deal more than that.
    • Similarly, the Death of Rats communicates entirely by saying Squeak, but the few people he interacts with don't have much trouble understanding him, and Quoth the raven is usually around to translate for him.
    • In The Wee Free Men, Tiffany meets a man who has been trapped in fairyland for years. He can only say "Sneebs!", but when he says it, the sentence he meant turns up in her head.
  • Journey to Chaos: BloodDrinker, a sword, speaks in humming and flashes of light that Basilard can interpret as words.
  • In the Redwall book The Long Patrol, Corporal Rubbadub speaks only in drum noises, complete with gratuitous Rimshots after jokes made by the other Patrollers. They all seem to understand him perfectly well.
  • Sunny in A Series of Unfortunate Events. Often used in the general Not Now, Kiddo frustrations, as she often observes crucial details but only the other Baudelaires can understand her.
  • In the many Star Wars novels, there are many characters who can understand R2-D2 or Chewbacca. In a conventional novel, there would be no reason not to include sentences like "And then Chewie said, in Shyriiwook, 'Pass me the peanuts.'" However, to preserve the ambience from the films, their dialogue is never provided directly like that. Instead, you get something like, "Chewie grunted a request. Han said, 'Sure, pal,' and passed him the peanuts."
  • Star Wars Legends: Ralrracheen (first introduced in Heir to the Empire is a notable exception, due to his speech impediment that allows non-Wookiees to understand him more easily. He's still speaking Shyriiwook, but the impediment neutralizes the thick accent most Wookies have from a Basic speaker's perspective.
  • There Is No Epic Loot Here, Only Puns: Delta is somehow able to understand Waddles the duck, perhaps because of his contract with her.
    "I don’t think I can agree to have them all on fire or dripping with acid," Delta said slowly.
    "I mean, that isn’t too bad, but I think an electrical storm moving between the knives might upset the fish. It might hurt them," she pointed out.
    "Quack… quack."
    Delta brightened and clapped her hands.
    "I can do that!"
  • Cradle Series: Lil' Blue is a Nature Spirit who communicates exclusively with the sound of bells and chimes. Characters can still get a pretty good sense of what she means, and by later books Lindon can understand full sentences from her.

    Live-Action TV 
  • Cousin Itt from The Addams Family.
  • Buffy the Vampire Slayer: When Buffy meets The Shadow Men, they only speak an unidentified language, probably from prehistoric Africa (subtitled, of course), but Buffy is somehow able to understand them perfectly.
  • Doctor Who:
    • In "Rose", the Doctor has a conversation with the Nestene Consciousness, whose speech consists almost entirely of rumbles and shrieks that the Doctor can nevertheless understand just fine. The only intelligible thing it says is "Time Lord".
    • In "The Doctor's Daughter," the Hath are humanoid fish creatures who can only communicate through gurgling, yet Martha seems to understand them without difficulty. (Perhaps the TARDIS translation circuits were still in effect for her.)
  • Father Ted:
    • Father Fintan Fay, the Monkey Priest,note  communicates only in hoots, but all of the other characters understand him.
    • "Eurosong" host Fred Rickwood, with his thick, mumbly accent, is Intelligible Unintelligible only to his producer. Probably because they spend a lot of time together (the producer's also his boyfriend). He can speak clearly, but only does so onstage.
  • In the mostly-lost series His Lordship Entertains, the maid Effie's voice makes no sound that the audience can hear, but the other characters can understand her.
  • Discussed on an episode of How I Met Your Mother where Stella, watching Star Wars for the first time, is put off by everyone's inexplicable ability to understand Chewbacca.
  • Lanny in Lizzie McGuire is The Speechless, but Matt (and only Matt) understands him perfectly. One gag involving this is when Dad answers the phone and gets silence; Matt says, "That's for me" and "Hi, Lanny!"
    • Another gag had Lizzie and Matt switch bodies and had Lizzie able to understand him.
  • Subverted on The Muppet Show, when Beaker says something to Miss Piggy and she snaps, "Beaker, I told you never to talk to me like that!" After he leaves, she turns to the camera and adds, "Because I can't understand it." Similarly, there's a scene where the Swedish Chef is complaining to Kermit, and Kermit keeps going, "I understand." Once the Chef leaves, Kermit gives an Aside Glance and comments, "I don't understand." However, when it's funnier for them to be understandable, Beaker and the Chef sometimes play this straight.
    • Also played with in the case of the Swedish Chef who is himself The Unintelligible, but has been shown to have a perfect understanding of Beaker and in instance, some other Funny Foreigner Muppets.
  • Sesame Street has the Honkers and the Dingers, who communicate by pressing their noses and their head appendages, respectively. Their fellow Muppets can understand them (somehow), so the humans (who can't) ask them for translations.
  • In episode 9x05 of Mystery Science Theater 3000, The Deadly Bees, Mike Nelson temporarily dresses as a bee and proceeds to communicate with Tom Servo and Crow in bee language (which involves lots of wiggling around but no actual spoken dialogue). Crow is confused, but Servo understands perfectly.
  • When we finally meet the Breen in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, they speak in an unintelligible electronic buzzing. Despite that, everyone understands them perfectly (as long as their Universal Translator is up-to-date), and even complement them on their eloquence.
  • In the Star Trek: The Original Series episode "Assignment: Earth", Gary Seven responds to Isis' mewings as intelligible speech. Lampshaded by one exception, where he replies, "'Meow'? You are nervous, aren't you?"
  • Latka Gravas of Taxi speaks in an elaborate, yet barely intelligible language. However Tony does know what he's talking about.
  • Discussed on RuPaul's Drag Race Season 15. Contestant Marcia Marcia Marcia had to interview Latin music legend Charo, whose speech can be...a lot for a native English speaker. It became clear during the segment that the extremely-WASPy Marcia couldn't understand a word Charo was saying. Meanwhile, fellow contestant Anetra was watching from backstage and she said that Charo spoke exactly like her older Filipina relatives, so she had no problem keeping up with her.

    Newspaper Comics 
  • Garfield: While the title character "speaks" in thought bubbles, the reader can understand everything he says. Odie, on the other hand, only barks, but Garfield is able to interpret him.
  • This trope is older than they think, used as early as Peanuts, with Snoopy being the only character who can understand Woodstock. The adults in the television series are also incomprehensible to the audience, but the characters understand them with full clarity.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • Delirious's speech tends to be pretty hard for most to pick up on and his hand writing tends to be even worse. Yet a select few wrestlers have no problem at all understanding him, such as Christopher Daniels and Daizee Haze. Some fans have even managed to pick out most of what he tries to communicate.

    Puppet Shows 
  • On Bear in the Big Blue House, Bear always seems to understand what Treelo the lemur is saying even though about half the time it's gibberish and even the other children can't understand it.
  • Magellan's pet, Cooey, from Eureeka's Castle can only say his name, but Magellan is perfectly capable of understanding it, and based on one scene, so can Batly.
  • This is the primary schtick of the Swedish Chef on The Muppet Show, where almost nobody in the Muppet Theater's cast can understand him, but he still holds conversations at various points with a reporter, special guest star Jean Stapleton, and at one point an entire international cast of Mupppets who respond approvingly to his joke about what sounds like "linoleum".

  • Played with in "The Last Goon Show of All".
    Little Jim: [gibberish]
    Bluebottle: I don't understand what he's saying.
    Eccles: Just a minute, I'll ask him. What did you say, Little Jim?
    Little Jim: [gibberish]
    Eccles: Oh... he says he doesn't understand what he's saying, either.
    Bluebottle: He's one of Mrs Thatcher's incomprehensives. [a reference to Britain's Comprehensive schoolteachers]

    Video Games 
  • Subverted in Blade Strangers. In his story mode, when the motes summon Isaac, all he ever says is "Wahhhh!!" The motes assume he must be talking, but they are unable to understand him. Then they try to link to his thoughts and all they get is... "Wahhhh!!". Turns out he's just crying.
  • Papa Hodunk's speech in Borderlands 2, despite vaguely sounding like something that resembles Deep South English, is unintelligible; even the in-game subtitles render his lines as "(Unintelligible)". His son Tector, however, is always there to translate for you.
  • In EarthBound (1994), most of the monkeys only talk in a monkey version of Pokémon Speak, but the player, and the characters by extension, always gets a perfect translation.
  • In the Fallout: New Vegas expansion Old World Blues, Dr. 8 talks in a string of computer code. With a high enough Science skill, the player character can understand him. The player still can't, though, you can only guess by looking at the different responses provided to you. This applies to many other robot characters in the Fallout series, such as ED-E, and also the few animals that can be talked to during the series, such as companions Dogmeat and Rex.
  • Fate/Grand Order:
    • Fou generally only says his own name, or exclamations like "Kyuu!" Despite this, Mash Kyrielight seems able to understand what he's saying most of the time. It later turns out that Fou is Obfuscating Stupidity and is capable of human speech.
    • Frankenstein's Monster (Fran) only speaks in grunts, but Mash again seems to usually be able to get what Fran's trying to say. Fran actually can speak, but it takes a lot of effort for her, so she usually doesn't bother.
    • Several Berserkers will only communicate in roars and growls, their Madness Enhancement having robbed them of their speech faculties. The game implies that the player character is able to understand them most of the time, which is part of what makes the player character such an excellent Master, to be able to connect with such insane Heroic Spirits.
  • Kero Blaster: Nanao always speaks in gibberish rather than actual words. Her subordinates seem to understand what she's saying, but the player only sees a dialogue box filled with squiggly lines instead of text.
  • The Legend of Zelda: Majora's Mask. The mountain smithy in Snowhead is a team consisisting of a small man named Zubora and a hulking creature named Gabora. While Gabora only speaks in strange growls, Zubora understands him just fine.
  • Mario and Luigi in Mario & Luigi: Superstar Saga talk only in pseudo-Italian gibberish, which the English/Japanese-speaking inhabitants of the Beanbean and Mushroom kingdoms understand perfectly... most of the time, anyway.
  • Marco and the Galaxy Dragon: Emergency Rations communicates exclusively through oinks. Marco and Arco have no trouble understanding it despite this.
    Marco: How long before we arrive?
    Emergency Rations: (piloting the ship) Oink, oink.
    Marco: I see. Sooner than I thought.
  • Mega Man Legends: Teisel, Tron, and the Servbots have no problem understanding Bon Bonne, who can only say "babu".
  • Octodad's title character is quite eloquent in his diary entries, but being an octopus, speaks only in a series of blubs. Somehow everyone understands him perfectly and nobody suspects a thing.
  • In Overcooked!, Kevin the dog can only say "BARK." (And occasionally "BARK BARK" for emphasis.) However, the Onion King understands him perfectly, and while he never exactly "translates" for Kevin, he does make what Kevin says clear to the chefs.
  • Persona 5: Although he's perfectly intelligible to the player and the Phantom Thieves, Morgana sounds like just any ordinary cat to anyone who hasn't been in the Metaverse for long enough to notice anything strange. Actual speaking outside the Metaverse may be a Translation Convention, however, as his real-world dialogue is always accompanied by a "meow" Written Sound Effect.
  • Exaggerated in Rune Factory 5 with Fuuka. She only speaks wereanimal language that sounds like barks, growls, and howls, and at first, the protagonist is shocked when they see others holding a conversation with her. However, the protagonist is then told to "just listen to her," at which point they suddenly understand everything Fuuka says. It turns out that everyone is capable of understanding Fuuka just fine without speaking a word of her language, and vice versa. This is represented in game by Fuuka's textboxes first having her speech in wereanimal, then by having its parenthetical translation beneath it.
  • Honda Tadakatsu in Sengoku Basara, despite only making mechanical noises, seems to have no problems when it comes to communication since other characters are able to hold conversations with him. Most of the time, these "conversations" consist completely of other characters monologuing. Ieyasu, however, clearly understands what Tadakatsu wants to say to him on some occasions.
  • Sly 3: Honor Among Thieves: The Guru engages in a lot of this, particularly with Bentley and Murray.
  • Splatoon:
    • Judd (as well as his clone Li'l Judd, introduced in Splatoon 2) only communicate by saying "Meow!" - and not like a cat would, but actually saying the word as it's spelled out - whenever talking to the player, but everyone seemingly has no problem understanding what they're saying regardless. Word of God says that the cats are telepathic.
    • Big Man in Splatoon 3, a manta ray, gets no such explanation. Everyone is simply able to parse his constant exclamations of "Ay!" as full, coherent sentences with no issue.
  • Star Wars Legends:
    • Darth Nihilus from Knights of the Old Republic II: The Sith Lords speaks in bizarre language that is possibly generated telepathically. None of the major characters have any trouble understanding it (including the Player Character), but the player is left clueless, as his dialog is not subtitled, in contrast to all the other characters' lines, which are (even when they're speaking perfectly clear English). It's possible that he's speaking the ancient Sith language, which, since it's not subtitled, may be the Star Wars universe's version of Black Speech.
    • T3-M4, who appears in both Knights of the Old Republic games, communicates in beeps and whistles. His dialogue is subtitled, but is not actually translated - it's written out as "Beep-bwoop? [whistle]" and such. The protagonist understands him perfectly, he persuades a pazaak champ to fake-sell him in order to infiltrate a warehouse, and he manages to sass off three assassin droids who can't believe his bravado.
  • The Pyro class from Team Fortress 2 wears a gas mask and speaks in an unintelligible muffled voice. But with enough hours invested in the game, most players can recognize individual muffles and what the pyro is trying to say, even without looking at the chat for voice commands prompts.
    Pyro: Mhhf hm mhhpfhh mhhh!
    Engineer: Alrighty then! Erectin' a dispenser.
  • King/Armor King in Tekken only speaks in jaguar growls, but everyone can understand what they're saying just fine. This also extends to Kuma (Bear)/Panda, Roger (Kangaroo), Alex (Velociraptor), Mokujin (A wooden object brought to life), and Ogre (a 'fighting god' who growls and spews a really, really ancient language).
  • Ma-San in Um Jammer Lammy. Even the player can understand if you turn on the subtitles!
  • The title character in Wizard's Work goes around with a smallish dragon which never makes any noise other than barking and repeats to the game audience what it's supposedly saying. Whether he can actually understand it or is just pretending is debatable.
  • World of Final Fantasy features toad-cursing (in reference to the absent Toad stats of previous games in the series). Tama reveals that toads do in fact have a comprehensible language, and accents that make a toad-cursed individual easily discernible from a genuine toad. Lann spits a few ribbits at a toad they need to imprism, and earns a glare from the toad and a reprimand for his language from Tama.

    Web Animation 
  • Tuba from Baman Piderman speaks only with tuba sounds, but everyone else understands her.
  • Puppycat from Bee and Puppycat, speaks gibberish with voice of Oliver. While the audience can't understand him without subtitles, everyone else can understand him just fine. Bee even lampshades it:
    Bee: Hey, you talk. Kind of.
  • In Brain POP, the robots speak in beeps, but humans can understand them.
  • Final Fantasy VII: Machinabridged's interpretation of Jessie is this due to an appointment with a Back Alley Dentist.
    Biggs: Jessie, was the alley dentist really worth what you saved?
  • Several cast members of Homestar Runner fall into this, especially The Cheat and Pom Pom.
    Homestar: Whoa, Pom Pom! Let's tone down the language before the contest, huh?
  • Archie from Minilife TV speaks in beeps similar to R2-D2, but Snowball the vampire is able to understand him.
  • Dilan from Mokey's Show. He only speaks in weird Donald Duck noises, yet everyone can understand him perfectly.
  • In Red vs. Blue, the Meta speaks in mainly grunts and snarls, but his partner Wash has no problem understanding him. It's because he got shot in the throat.
  • Shadowstone Park: Pecan is the only non-insane animal that can not talk. However judging from Lark's responses, her vocalizations hold more meaning than it would initially appear.

  • El Goonish Shive has Guineas (human / guinea pig hybrid shapeshifter) who in his default form talks via sounds rendered as "Squeek! Squee squee *snort* squee?". His siblings understand this speech though they also can talk with squirrels and hedgecatsnote ).
  • In The Life of Nob T. Mouse, Bricky speaks Latatian; a language consisting only of various intonations of "pop", as demonstrated by this translation from the Nasties! storyline.
    • To make things even more complicated, in one comic he acts as a translator for another unintelligible character.
  • The only thing George of A Moment of Peace ever says is 'Meep', but his human friend Evi holds extensive conversations with him over tea and while plotting to capture monsters.
  • Roza: Nik
  • Bubbles the Water Cooler in Skin Horse can only say the sentence "Service is my only joy", or sections thereof. Moustachio knows exactly what she's saying, though.
    Chris: Dude, you can understand her?
    Moustachio: Of course. One only needs to learn five words.
    Chris: Robot logic is weird.
    • She becomes a bit more intelligible to the rest of the cast after she is given a gynoid Remote Body, and learns some body language.
  • R2-D2 in Darths & Droids is played by Pete, who took Short and Mute as disadvantages and thus can only speak in beeps. To make translation efforts easier, he wrote a PDA program to produce a consistent language out of computer sounds; R2-D2 boops, and if a translator is nearby, Pete can speak the translation. Episode 5 reveals that Ben, playing Chewbacca, has been keeping notes and can understand the language perfectly. In Episode 6, Sally, playing C-3PO, uses the language to pass on a Fake Mole message.
  • Mecha-Nicole in Everyday Heroes can only say "beep", but listeners have no trouble understanding her.
  • Star Impact's Eel only ever speaks in grunts and sighs, but somehow, his buddies Crust and Urchin can understand him just fine.

    Web Original 
  • In Cat Face, Box Cat can only communicate by growling, but Cat Face understands him anyway.
  • In CollegeHumor's video "Lebron Ditches Space Jam", LeBron James can apparently understand Taz's gibberish.
    LeBron: Don't talk. About. My mama like that!
  • Gorilla from Glove and Boots speaks only in variations on "meh", yet Mario and Fafa seem to understand him just fine. Occasionally, if it makes the joke work better, it seems more like he just speaks in an accent that renders most but not all syllables as "meh", and the audience can thus figure out that he's saying a specific word or short phrase. For instance, in "The History of Television", "Vitameatavegamin" is rendered something like "meh-ta-meata-meh-ta-muh".
  • In Less is Morgue, Riley's Mom speaks Ghoulish - which is derived from horrifying hyena noises - constantly, but the other ghoul characters like Riley and Shaz have no problem understanding her.
  • In Yu-Gi-Oh! The Abridged Series, "Zombie Boy" (Bonz) says only "brains", and the cast seem to pull deep philisophical musings from the whole thing.
    • Often subverted and averted when characters just interpret what they want to hear or can't understand him at all (Marik's Evil Council Of Doom).
    • And often people can't understand him when he talks, as in Evil Council of Doom 4.
    • That was only Dartz, meaning it was likely just Hypocritical Humor derived from having a character whose accent makes certain statements sound dangerously ambiguous criticize the "pwonownication" of someone that speaks quite clearly.
  • In the DarkSideIncorporated version of Yu-Gi-Oh! GX: The Abridged Series, Chumley communicates through short grunts.
  • Sakura Miko of hololive has an accent that's difficult to discern due to her short tongue giving her a speech impediment and there are times when the people around cannot understand what she is saying: her fellow streamers, hololive's staff members, her audience and even herself. The one exception to this is Tokino Sora, who has no problems comprehending what Miko says.
  • Matt Mitchell's SEC Roll Call has him portraying LSU with an exaggerated version of coach Ed Orgeron's Cajun accent that renders him completely incomprehensible to anyone else in the videos (and according to the comments, even to real Louisianans)...until Week 13 when Florida hires Billy Napier and reveals that he's been able to understand LSU all along.

    Western Animation 
  • Played With on Adventure TimeLady Rainicorn speaks Korean, and while her boyfriend Jake and best friend Princess Bubblegum can understand her, others cannot. She, for whatever reason, understands English but doesn't speak it (although she has spoken it once)
  • The Godpigeon from Animaniacs is very mumbly; Bobby typically translates for him. Sometimes Pesto does so, usually when Bobby is not around. Squit is the only Goodfeather that does not understand what the Godpigeon is saying. (In fact, in one episode, when neither Bobby or Pesto was around, Squit mistook what he was telling him for worldly advice; actually, he was asking if Squit wanted to go with him to poop on cars.)
  • Bluey from Avenger Penguins speaks in gibberish, but everyone seems to understand him just fine.
  • Poppi the dog, who appears in several episodes of Avez-vous déjà vu... ?. He has been called as witness in a court case, he's had a successful career as a hostage negotiator, as a Shakespearean actor and as a radio show host, and he's often seen working in a recording studio. All he ever says is "woof".
    Woman (calling Poppi's radio show): Hello, Poppi? I have been with my husband seventeen years now, but lately I find that he is...
    Poppi: Woof.
    Woman: Yes, that's it! And sometimes I even...
    Poppi: Woof.
    Woman: I'LL KILL HIM! I'M GONNA FLAY THE SWINE!! [click] [dial tone]
  • Bounty Hunter Sixsix of Ben 10 communicates in an alien language that's left untranslated. Vilgax, Kraab and Vulkanis, at least, can understand him perfectly well... And he seems pretty abrasive.
    Kraab: No need to get personal.
  • Big City Greens: In one episode where Cricket enters his brain, he meets a Factoid named Spitty, who says the first fact he ever learned, "Dogs can't spit." Naturally, that phrase is the only thing Spitty can say, but Cricket can understand what Spitty is really telling him fluently.
  • All of the dogs in Blue's Clues (Blue, Magenta, and Green Puppy) speak in a kind of canine whine that is completely unintelligible to the audience. All of the other characters seem to have no problem understanding them.
  • Toot from Bottersnikes And Gumbles can only say his name, but the other Gumbles can understand him very well despite his speech impairment.
  • Cat from Boy Girl Dog Cat Mouse Cheese is the only-non human member of the family who doesn't speak English, so she meows whenever she states her opinions. Her siblings understand her and comment on her statements, but don't reveal what she said.
  • Epoch from Buzz Lightyear of Star Command speaks in a screeching gibberish sort of language his two associates translate his speech for Buzz and who ever else is present.
  • Shnitzel from Chowder only says "Radda radda", but everyone can understand him. This gets multiple Lampshade Hangings.
  • In Dastardly and Muttley in Their Flying Machines, only Zilly can understand Klunk, which is presumably why Dick Dastardly tolerates Zilly.
    "What did he say? What did he say?"
  • DuckTales (2017): Played with. Donald has a very thick speech impediment, but he's usually understandable. But in the first season finale, he's even more unintelligible than usual, and his nephews admit they normally catch only "every third word" and figure out the rest from context. Gearloose gives him a artificial voicebox that lets him speak in the smooth tones of Don Cheadle. So, of course, it breaks at the end of the episode.
  • Poof from The Fairly OddParents! varies between only being able to say "poof" and being able to speak but incapable of formulating a sentence, yet everyone understands him. Lampshaded in one episode where Foop says he can't believe Poof got a part in the play, as he's "a much better actor, who can actually speak real words!"
  • Coco in Foster's Home for Imaginary Friends. Whether this is applies to everyone or just people around Foster's isn't consistent: it took a while in the pilot until Mac or Bloo could understand her, but she's been able to do things with strangers (like getting a job) that would require talking. One episode has this carry over to her writing and, in another, when she did say something other than "Coco", everyone ran off.
  • In an episode of Futurama, Nibbler zaps Leela with a beam to allow her to understand Nibblonian, which to the audience sounds like gibberish.
  • Ivor, from Ivor the Engine, is only able to communicate by blasts from his three-toned whistle. Although he's incomprehensible to most of the human characters, his driver, Jones the Steam, is capable of holding conversation with him. The obvious Alternate Character Interpretation, that Jones the Steam is harmlessly insane and "Ivor" a mere Companion Cube, might well have been intentional.
    • In "The Dragon", however, Ivor won't make any noises when the lady from the antiquarian society is there, implying to her that the dragon was also imaginary, but to the viewer that he does really talk the rest of the time.
  • Quack Quack from Kaeloo can only say "Quack", But Kaeloo, Eugly and Mr. Cat can usually understand what he is saying. Stumpy, on the other hand, cannot.
  • Boomhauer from King of the Hill isn't completely incomprehensible, just hard to understand due to his Motor Mouth speech and constant Verbal Tics. Regular characters have no trouble understanding him, though, and in fact consider him the wisest and most eloquent person they know. There's a Running Gag where they can't understand him due to bad phone reception or basically any reason but his manner of speaking. However, it seems only Arlenites can understand him. Once, in "Naked Ambition", he fell asleep while inner tubing and woke up in Houston. Nobody there could understand him and he actually got thrown in a mental institution because everyone thought he was insane (although him walking around in just a speedo definitely also played a part in that). It didn't help that the only thing they could clearly hear him say was "head cut off" (he was trying to say that the hot asphalt made him feel "like a dang old chicken runnin' around with his head cut off, man.").
  • Varrick from The Legend of Korra's catchphrase is to tell Zhu Li, his Girl Friday, "Zhu Li, do the thing!" and Zhu Li always knows exactly what "the thing" is.
  • Looney Tunes
    • In the short "Rabbit's Kin", it is possible to understand the little rabbit's speech, it's just sped up to the point of near unintelligible, if one were to slow it down you can clearly hear what he's saying.
    • This also holds true for Disney's Chip 'n Dale.
  • The Twins from Men in Black: The Series. Everybody besides J seems to have no trouble understanding them.
  • Martha Speaks: The title character herself can understand the other dogs, including Skits, even though they can only bark.
  • Spoofed in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, where Pinkie Pie acts like she understands her alligator Gummy, despite his having no real means of communication. It quickly becomes clear that she's just guessing. She does seem to understand frog, though.
  • Palismen from The Owl House are Bond Creatures in the form of small animals that can communicate with their owners once their bond gets strong enough, though some people are shown to be able to understand other people's Palismen (such as Lilith being able to understand Owlbert, Eda's Palisman). To other characters, and to the audience, Palismen just make the sound of the animal they're modeled after.
  • Meap from "The Chronicles of MEAP" episode of Phineas and Ferb speaks only the word "meap". Once he tears the Intergalactic Translator Mustache off of his foe Mitch and dons it, Meap is quite articulate.
  • Done on an episode of Pinky and the Brain in a running gag wherein two old men are sitting in armchairs and one of them will mutter something unintelligible and the other one will understand it and give a reply which leaves the viewer amusingly perplexed as to what the first man could have been saying.
  • Smiling Friends:
    • Glep speaks only in bizarre gibberish, but everyone in the show from the main cast to unambiguously human characters can understand him well enough.
    • Played with in the Fun Twins' case in "Who Violently Murdered Simon S. Salty". They speak in shrieking, hyperkinetic warbles that somehow Pim understands enough to get an even more nonsensical story from them when he asks what they were up to at the time of the murder. Charlie, being the Audience Surrogate, has zero idea what they said.
      Pim: ...Well, that's a nice story and all, but it doesn't really answer my question.
      Charlie: Pim, how did you understand any of that?
  • Kenny from South Park drifts in and out of this trope; it's a rare character on the show that can't understand him, but that's partly because most of his lines are perfectly normal English just spoken quickly and muffled. Even the audience can pick up what he's saying sometimes... and that explains why he's usually muffled, because his lines would have to be bleeped out otherwise.
    • In "Obama Wins", Butters becomes temporarily unintelligible when his face swells up from an almond allergy. Kenny ends up being the only one who can understand him, so that he'd slur a sentence, then Kenny would repeat the same thing muffled so Stan and Kyle would know what he said.
    • Handi-capable classmate Timmy can usually only say his own name, but gets his point across through emphatic gestures. Turns out his parents are the same way.
    • In the episode “Do The Handicapped Go To Hell?” Satan has a conversation with one of his demons who speaks in screeching gibberish, Satan has no trouble understanding him.
  • Octocat from Spliced can only say meow, but all the other characters can understand her.
  • Both SpongeBob and Sandy can understand Gary.
    Sandy: He has such a way with words.
    • And Mr. Krabs:
      Mr. Krabs: SpongeBob, what's wrong with you? You're paler than a baby seahorse.
      Gary: Meow!
      Mr. Krabs: The Suds?!
  • Steven Universe: Onion and his father Yellowtail both speak a weird, mumbling language. Onion's mother Vidalia and half-brother Sour Cream can understand them, and the latter once unconsciously started speaking the same way. Greg may understand them as well, since he and Yellowtail were doing a business transaction in one episode.
  • On Sushi Pack, only other members of the Pack can understand Wasabi. His "mustard speak" is occasionally used for a Repeating So the Audience Can Hear version of an Orphaned Punchline:
    Ikura: No, Wasabi, that's the rodeo. Clowns don't dive in a barrel in golf.
  • Ookla in Thundarr the Barbarian speaks only in unintelligible growls, but Thundarr and Ariel have no problem understanding him.
  • The seal pup in the Tom and Jerry episode "Little Runaway".
  • Transformers:
    • The original series had an alien mercenary named Slizardo, whose speech comprised of high-pitched babbling. The Autobots and Decepticons couldn't understand him, but other aliens could.
    • Bumblebee of Transformers: Prime can't speak normally due to losing his voice processor, rather like his movie counterpart, instead communicating through beeping noises. The other Autobots seem to have no problem understanding him. The only human who gets what he's saying is the Child Prodigy and even he is unsure why this is.
    • The Mini-Cons in the Unicron Trilogy initially speak in beeps, (which the humans can somehow understand), although they later learn human language.
  • H.E.L.P.eR. from The Venture Bros. The characters who understand him have spent a large amount of time with him.
    • Lampshaded by Hank and Dermott in the episode "Momma's Boys", where they discuss that they are able to understand H.E.L.P.eR, but have no idea how they are doing it.
    • Discussed by Dean and Ben's H.E.L.P.eR. in "The Inamorata Consequence". Dean mentions that "you can sometimes kinda tell what he [H.E.L.P.eR.] is beeping, but mostly it's like talking to a microwave".
  • In Young Justice (2010), Klarion The Witchboy is able to verbally communicate with his feline familiar Teekl, despite the fact that Teekl only ever vocalises meows and other cat sounds. This is usually in service of a Running Gag by which Klarion uses the wrong word in a sentence or phrase, and gets annoyed by Teekl's subsequent correction.
    Klarion: Stop worrying. Project Cucumber is right on schedule.
    Teekl: Meow.
    Klarion: Rutabaga? Please. This is a top-secret operation for the Light. Who'd choose the name Project Rutabaga for that?
    Teekl: Meow.
    Klarion: Well, if I named it Project Rutabaga, then Project Rutabaga it is. Now stop trying to ruin my fun, Teekl. And what's more fun than tormenting children?
    Teekl: Meow.
    Klarion: Yes, tormenting puppies is fun, but I wouldn't say it's more fun.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): The Librarian Speak Conundrum



Cricket's first factoid only has three total words in his vocabulary (Dogs can't spit); yet Cricket can understand him just fine.

How well does it match the trope?

5 (5 votes)

Example of:

Main / IntelligibleUnintelligible

Media sources: